(ORDO NEWS) — People under the age of 40 are encouraged to have their hearts checked as they may be at risk for sudden death syndrome in adulthood.
SADS is “an umbrella term for unexpected deaths in young people,” says the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, which most commonly occurs in people under the age of 40.
This term is used when an autopsy fails to establish an obvious cause of death.
The American SADS Foundation has said that more than half of the 4,000 annual deaths of children, adolescents and young people from SADS have one of two main warning signs.
These signs include a family history of a SADS diagnosis or sudden unexplained death of a family member, as well as fainting or convulsions with exertion, excitement, or fright.
Last year, a 31-year-old woman, Catherine Keene, died in her sleep in Dublin.
Her mother, Marguerite Cummins, told the Irish Mirror newspaper: “They (she lived with two friends) were all working from home, so nobody noticed when Katherine didn’t come down for breakfast.”
They texted her at 11.20 am and when she didn’t answer they checked her room and found that she had passed away.”
Her friend heard a noise in her room at 3.56 am and now believes that is when she died.”
Ms Cummins said her daughter “went to the gym and walked 10,000 steps every day.”
It consoles me that she died in her sleep and knew no pain, and I am grateful to her for that. I was always worried about children when they were in a car, but I did not expect this. I never thought I would ever lose a child in my life.”
The Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne is developing the country’s first SADS registry.
“In the state of Victoria, about 750 cases of sudden cardiac arrest occur each year in people under the age of 50,” a spokesman for the institute said.
Of these, in about 100 young people a year, no cause will be found, even after extensive investigations such as a full autopsy.”
Cardiologist and researcher Dr. Elisabeth Paratz said: “The Baker Register was the first in the country and one of the few in the world to combine emergency room, hospital and forensic information.”
“This allows you to see that people have had a cardiac arrest and the cause has not been found,” said Dr. Paratz.
She believes that potential ignorance may be due to the fact that “most of these cases occur outside of traditional medical institutions.”
Most SADS cases, 90 percent, occur outside of the hospital – the person does not survive, so the bulk of these patients are served by ambulance and forensic personnel,” says Dr. Paratz.
I think even doctors underestimate this. We only see 10 percent of those who survive and make it to the hospital. We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.”
For the families and loved ones of SADS victims, it is “a very difficult problem to understand” because it is a “diagnosis of nothing,” added Dr. Paratz.
Dr. Paratz said that from a public health standpoint, fighting SADS “is not as easy as if every Australian was genetically screened” because scientists still don’t know 100 percent “which genes cause the disease.”
The best advice is if you have a first-degree relative – parent, sibling, child – who has had an unexplained death, it is highly recommended that you see a cardiologist,” she said.
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