ROCHESTER, Minn. - People who survive a heart attack face the greatest risk of dying from sudden cardiac death (SCD) during the first month after leaving the hospital, according to a long-term community study by Mayo Clinic researchers of nearly 3,000 heart attack survivors.
Sudden cardiac death can happen when the heart's electrical system malfunctions; if treatment - cardiopulmonary resuscitation and defibrillation - does not happen fast, a person dies.
After that first month, the risk of sudden cardiac death drops significantly - but rises again if a person experiences signs of heart failure. The research results appear in the Nov. 5 edition of Journal of the American Medical Association.
The Mayo Message
Heart failure symptoms that require immediate attention include:
\"There are three key findings here that can be immediately applied to heart attack patients today,\" Dr. Roger says. \"One is that the first month post-heart attack is the highest risk period for patients to suffer sudden cardiac death - and acute surveillance is warranted. A second is that the risk drops rapidly after the first month, but this does not mean the patient is out of danger. Surveillance is still required after the first month because our third finding shows that even though the risk drops after the first month, the onset of symptoms of heart failure at any time after the heart attack markedly increases the risk of SCD.\"
Here are links to a radio actuality on the study and the accompanying script:
About the Study
Success of Secondary Prevention
These include the use of rapid restoration of blood flow during the initial phase of the heart attack, treated by emergency care and the adoption of \"secondary prevention\" measures. These measures include diet and lifestyle changes, such as taking medications to lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure. The measures help keep heart disease from developing or progressing, Dr. Roger says.
|Collaboration and Support
The Mayo Clinic research team also includes Susan Weston; Bernard Gersh, M.B.Ch.B., D.Phil.; and Terry Therneau, Ph.D. Collaborating in the research was A. Selcuk Adabag, M.D., from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Minneapolis. Their work was funded by the U.S. Public Health Service, the National Institutes of Health, and the Veterans Affairs Clinical Science Research & Development Service.