Disproportionate Risk for SCA

Blacks are at greater risk for sudden cardiac arrest




Blacks are more likely than whites to experience sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) and at a much earlier age, according to research published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.

Researchers also found that blacks had higher rates than whites of well-established risk factors for cardiovascular disease. These included diabetes (52 percent vs. 33 percent), high blood pressure (77 percent vs. 65 percent), and chronic kidney failure (34 percent vs. 19 percent).

SCA occurs when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions and blood is no longer pumped throughout the body. SCA is a major cause of death in the United States, contributing to 300,000-350,000 deaths annually and accounting for about 50 percent of all cardiovascular deaths.

“Cardiac arrest is recognized by the ‘bad company’ it keeps, so the mantra has been: prevent coronary artery disease, prevent sudden cardiac death,” said Sumeet S. Chugh, M.D., lead author of the study and associate director of the Cedars- Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles.

For the study, researchers collected data on 1,745 white and 179 black residents in the Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area who experienced sudden cardiac arrest between 2002 and 2012.

Researchers found:

  • Blacks were more than twice as likely as whites to experience SCA.
  • On average, blacks were more than 6 years younger than whites at the time of SCA. Among blacks, the majority were younger than 65 when it occurred; among whites, the majority were older than 65.
  • Blacks who experience SCA had the same rates as whites of coronary artery disease, long considered the strongest predictor of risk. However, three non-coronary heart problems were significantly more prevalent among blacks than whites: congestive heart failure (43 percent vs. 34 percent), left ventricular hypertrophy (77 percent vs. 58 percent), and a longer QT interval, indicating a problem with the heart’s electrical system.
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