Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
 CDC Home Search Health Topics A-Z

CDC Media Relations
Media Home | Contact Us
US Department of Health and Human Services logo and link

Media Relations Links
About Us
Media Contact
Frequently Asked Questions
Media Site Map

CDC News
Press Release Library
MMWR Summaries
B-Roll Footage
Upcoming Events

Related Links
Centers at CDC
Data and Statistics
Health Topics A-Z
Image Library
Publications, Software and Other Products
Global Health Odyssey
Find your state or local health department
HHS News
National Health Observances
Visit the FirstGov Web Site
Div. of Media Relations
1600 Clifton Road
MS D-14
Atlanta, GA 30333
(404) 639-3286
Fax (404) 639-7394


March 1, 2001
Contact: CDC, Division of Media Relations
(4040 639–3286

Press Release

Sudden cardiac deaths are increasing in young people, especially among young women

San Antonio — Yearly death totals of sudden cardiac death (SCD) in people between the ages of 15 and 34 rose 10% overall during the past decade — from 2,719 in 1989 to 3,000 in 1996, according to data presented by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during the American Heart Association’s 41st Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention, in San Antonio, Texas.

Alarmingly, although the numbers are very small, the SCD death rate increased by 30% in young women. Death rates were also higher among young African-Americans than whites.

"We can’t fully explain this increase in SCD among young people, particularly young women," said CDC Director Jeffrey Koplan, M.D., M.P.H. "However, smoking cigarettes, obesity, and lack of physical activity are high among adolescents. Poor recognition of heart events in younger patients and delayed application of cardiopulmonary resuscitation or defibrillation may also be contributing to this increase."

SCD typically is caused by ischemic heart disease, which restricts blood flow to the heart; arrhythmia (irregular heart beat); or cardiomyopathy (deterioration of the heart muscle). Ischemic heart disease has been associated with not being physically active, eating a poor diet, and smoking cigarettes. Arrhythmia and cardiomyopathy are often inherited or result from a structural problem in the heart.

Lifestyle changes, plus early identification of risk and prompt attention when signs of heart distress are recognized, could help reduce SCD in people ages 15-34, according to the CDC.

"Adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle that includes 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week, a low-fat diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, and either stopping smoking or not starting, are three steps we all can take to help reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death," said George A. Mensah, M.D., chief of cardiovascular health at CDC and co-author of the report. "Families with a history of early heart disease or sudden cardiac death should talk to their doctors about screening younger family members."

The report was presented in San Antonio by lead author Zhi-Jie Zheng, M.D., Ph.D., epidemiologist. Other researchers included Janet Croft, Ph.D., and Wayne L. Giles, M.D.

CDC protects people’s health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and promotes healthy living through strong partnerships with local, national, and international organizations.

Media Home | Contact Us

CDC Home | Search | Health Topics A-Z

This page last reviewed March 1, 2001

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention