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Jul 11, 2011

Healthy Lifestyle Trims Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death

Maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, exercising regularly and eating healthy protects women against sudden cardiac death.

Sudden cardiac death is an unexpected death from cardiac causes, which accounts for more than half of all cardiac deaths each year. Unfortunately, it often occurs in adults with unknown heart disease who never presented symptoms of heart disease before their cardiac event. This holds especially true in women, so prevention is extremely important to help stave off sudden cardiac death in this population.

Fortunately, a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association helped further prevention guidelines by identifying effective lifestyle factors that can help reduce risk for sudden cardiac disease in women by more than 5 times. In this study, 81,722 women in the United States completed periodic surveys for 26 years. Of those women, 321 suffered sudden cardiac death. Based on data collected from the surveys, researchers were able to identify four healthy lifestyle factors associated with lowering risk for sudden cardiac death: not smoking, body mass index of less than 25, exercising 30 or more minutes each day, and maintaining a healthy diet. The more of these factors the women embodied, the lower their risk for sudden cardiac death. For example, those with zero healthy lifestyle factors had 54% risk for sudden cardiac death, while those with all four lifestyle factors reduced their risk to 8%.

Study findings are extremely encouraging, providing women with proven guidelines for the primary prevention of sudden cardiac death. By exercising, maintaining a healthy weight and diet, and avoiding tobacco use, women have the power to drastically reduce their risk for sudden cardiac death. These healthy lifestyle factors also happen to reduce risk for many other serious conditions, such as heart disease, rendering them simple yet effective ways in which women can improve their health on their own.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What causes sudden cardiac death?

  • Sudden cardiac death is most often caused by arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms, that cause the heart to stop beating. However, it can be the result of many other cardiac causes, and usually results in death within 1 hour of the onset of symptoms.
  • Can a healthy diet reduce risk for sudden cardiac death?
  • A recent study demonstrated that a healthy diet, rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, whole grains, fish, and moderate alcohol intake can help prevent sudden cardiac death and improve overall cardiovascular health.


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