Relatives of Young Sudden Cardiac Death Victims at Greater Risk of CVD

The risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) is greater in relatives of young sudden cardiac death (SCD) victims, according to results of a new study published in The European Heart Journal. The investigators suggest family members of SCD victims should be screened, especially younger ones.

The study, which followed Danish SCD victims between the ages of one and 35 (n=470) along with their first- and second-degree relatives (n=3,073) over 11 years, found that among first-degree relatives of an SCD victim, the overall CVD risk rose 50 percent, compared with the background population. In addition, risk of cardiomyopathies and ventricular arrhythmias increased by up to 400 percent, while risk of ischemic heart disease was only modestly affected.

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The study also found that while CVD risk significantly increased in relatives of SCD victims as a whole, risks of CVD and CVD subtypes were even more dramatic in first and second-degree relatives under the age of 35. According to the study investigators, risk of any CVD, IHD, and of cardiomyopathies and ventricular arrhythmias were elevated three-fold, six-fold and 10-fold, respectively, in this age group.

"Results clearly indicate that family members of young SCD victims should be offered comprehensive and systematic screening, with focus on the youngest relatives," the investigators said. "Since the cardiovascular conditions on which we focused are treatable, early identification of at-risk persons is potentially a life-saving action."

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