Study finds half of cardiac patients have these ‘tell tale symptoms’ day before heart attack

About half of patients who experienced a sudden cardiac arrest may also experience a telling symptom 24 hours before their loss of heart function, according to a new study.

The research, published earlier this week in the journal The Lancet Digital Health, could take people a step closer to catching a sudden cardiac arrest before it happens.

Researchers, including those from the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in the US, also found that warning symptoms may vary across genders, with the most prominent symptom among women being shortness of breath, whereas men more commonly experienced chest pain.

They also found that subgroups of both genders experienced palpitations, seizure-like activity, and flu-like symptoms.

Sudden cardiac arrest out of hospitals claims the lives of 90 per cent of people who experience it, highlighting the urgent need for methods to predict and prevent the condition.

“Harnessing warning symptoms to perform effective triage for those who need to make a 911 call could lead to early intervention and prevention of imminent death,” study co-author Sumeet Chughsaid in a statement.

In the research, scientists assessed data from two established and ongoing community-based studies – the Prediction of Sudden Death in Multi-Ethnic Communities (Presto) Study initiated eight years ago in Ventura County, California, and the Oregon Sudden Unexpected Death Study (Suds), started 22 years ago in Portland, Oregon.

Researchers evaluated the prevalence of individual symptoms and sets of symptoms prior to sudden cardiac arrest in both these studies and compared these findings to control groups that also sought emergency medical care.

The Ventura-based study showed that 50 per cent of the 823 people who had a sudden cardiac arrest – witnessed by a bystander or emergency medicine professional – experienced at least one telltale symptom 24 hours previously.

Researchers say the Oregon-based study also showed similar results.

“This is the first community-based study to evaluate the association of warning symptoms — or sets of symptoms – with imminent sudden cardiac arrest using a comparison group with EMS-documented symptoms recorded as part of routine emergency care,” Eduardo Marbán, another author of the study, said.

The new findings pave the way for more research to combine all symptoms with other features of the condition to enhance the prediction of imminent sudden cardiac arrest.

“Our findings could lead to a new paradigm for prevention of sudden cardiac death,” Dr Chugh said.

“Next we will supplement these key sex-specific warning symptoms with additional features – such as clinical profiles and biometric measures – for improved prediction of sudden cardiac arrest,” he added.


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