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Causes & Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors

In pediatric and young adult populations, SCA is primarily due to undetected genetic conditions that can be (usually) detected with general heart screenings/examinations. These “heart screenings” typically include a physician collecting a detailed medical and family history from a patient, performing a physical examination with an emphasis on auscultation (listening) to the heart with a stethoscope, administering an electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG), and/or an ultrasound (echocardiogram) of the heart.

There are various conditions that can predispose a young individual to SCA. These conditions can be summarized into four main categories: heart valve disorders, cardiomyopathies and conditions that change the heart muscle, genetic disorders, and congenital heart defects.

Heart valve disorders

Cardiomyopathy and changes in the heart muscle

Genetic disorders

Congenital heart defects

Conversely, heart attacks are primarily caused by coronary artery disease and fatty deposit buildup, as discussed previously. These fatty deposits often take years to accumulate and can build up for a number of reasons, such as smoking, unhealthy dietary habits, diabetes, and chronic high blood pressure, among many other factors. Thus, heart attacks do not often affect younger populations like SCA does.
1 American Heart Association - Sudden Cardiac Arrest Facts (2021)