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Sudden cardiac arrest during sleep: Why people die in sleep and how to prevent this heart condition

By, New Delhi
Aug 07, 2023 07:57 PM IST

From inherited heart conditions to obesity and diabetes, sudden cardiac arrest in young females can be caused by various factors.

Kannada film actor-director Vijay Raghavendra's wife Spandana passed away in Bangkok on Monday at the age of 44 while she was in Thailand with her family for a trip. Raghavendra's brother told media that Spandana did not get up in the morning after she went to sleep last night and the death is believed to be due to complications related to low blood pressure. "Last night she went to sleep and did not get up in the morning. We believe it (death) is due to (complications arising from) low blood pressure,” Sri Murali told reporters here, quoting his brother Raghavendra who called him up from Bangkok. (Also read: Risk factors that can increase the chances of heart disease, tips to keep cardiovascular issues at bay)

Why people die in sleep

Dying in sleep is due to sudden cardiac arrest. (SCA). It is not the same as heart attack.(Freepik)

"Dying in sleep is due to sudden cardiac arrest. (SCA). It is not the same as heart attack. Sudden cardiac arrest in young females can be caused by various factors," says Dr. Nishith Chandra, Principal Director, Interventional Cardiology, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, Okhla Road, New Delhi.

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Dr Chandra shared possible causes of sudden cardiac arrest during sleep.

1. Inherited heart conditions: Certain genetic conditions like Long QT syndrome, Brugada syndrome, and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can increase the risk of sudden cardiac arrest.

2. Structural heart abnormalities: Congenital heart defects or other structural abnormalities can disrupt the heart's electrical system.

3. Arrhythmias: Irregular heart rhythms can lead to sudden cardiac arrest, especially if they are not properly managed.

4. Underlying health conditions: Conditions like obesity, diabetes, and certain autoimmune disorders can contribute to heart problems.

Preventing sudden cardiac arrest involves a combination of measures as per Dr Chandra:

1. Regular medical check-ups: Regular visits to a healthcare professional can help identify and manage any underlying health conditions.

2. Healthy lifestyle: Maintaining a balanced diet, staying physically active, managing stress, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol can contribute to heart health.

3. Awareness of symptoms: Being aware of warning signs like chest pain, palpitations, dizziness, and fainting can prompt timely medical attention.

4. Screening: Consider cardiac screenings, especially if there's a family history of heart conditions, to detect any potential issues early.

5. Genetic testing: In some cases, genetic testing can help identify inherited conditions and guide preventative measures.

6. Education: Educating young females about heart health and the importance of early detection can play a crucial role.

Heart attack in women post 40

Dr. Ajitkumar Jadhav, Interventional Cardiologist at Surya Mother & Child Superspeciality Hospital, Pune says heart attacks can occur in women after the age of 40, just like in men. Yet, it's crucial to recognize that the symptoms and risk factors for heart attacks can vary between the two genders.

"Women often tend to have more atypical or less pronounced symptoms, leading to a potential delay in seeking medical attention. This delay can impact their overall prognosis, highlighting the importance of recognizing the symptoms and seeking help promptly. Further, in my experience, apart from coronary heart disease, women are also highly susceptible to non-ischemic cardiomyopathy as well as atrial fibrillation. Hormonal shifts during perimenopause, coupled with factors like syndrome X and obesity, contribute to the increased risk of heart diseases among women. Warning signs such as breathlessness during activity and heightened fatigue should be taken seriously. It is advised that women embrace lifestyle adjustments including regular moderate to intense workouts, balanced diets rich in protein and fiber, sufficient sleep, stress-reducing practices like meditation and yoga, and abstaining from tobacco and alcohol consumption," adds Dr Jadhav.

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