A death too soon

Fronm: The Star Online

Anyone can succumb to sudden cardiac arrest, from professional athletes to couch potatoes. Indeed, it is a silent killer as the symptoms are not always detectable.


WHEN a professional athlete dies from a sudden cardiac arrest in the field, the world is stunned. While it is ironic that the strongest and fittest of us all can simply drop dead, heart abnormalities are sometimes difficult to detect.

Last month, there were two cases of athletes in their 20s who suffered sudden cardiac death (SCD). Ecuadorian international footballer Christian Benitez, 27, complained of stomach pains and died a few hours later. Malaysian basketball player Jacky Ng, 25, collapsed on the bench and was pronounced dead two hours later.

SCD can be due to a heart attack, a rhythm problem such as arrhythmia, or even a stroke.

“When you have a sudden cardiac arrest, it’s mainly two issues. It’s either a plumbing issue, that is, the narrowing of a blood vessel, which is blocked, or an irregular heart rhythm, where the heart rate goes either too fast or too slow,” says consultant cardiologist and electrophysiologist Dr Azlan Hussin. “Whatever the cause, the end point is that a person dies suddenly.”

The symptoms that precede SCD include fainting, chest tightness, dizziness, shortness of breath, vomiting, seizures and stomach ache. In some cases, it’s asymptomatic. While the symptoms can give rise to suspicion, it’s not specific in pointing out if someone is at risk for sudden death. It is not age-specific and can occur in babies as well.

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