Cardio Roundup


Roundup: ‘Warning Symptoms’ May Signal Sudden Cardiac Arrest; Stress, Insomnia Linked to Post-menopausal AFib; and More News

Researchers Find ‘Warning Symptoms’ Linked to Imminent Sudden Cardiac Arrest

A new study has found that about half of individuals who went into sudden cardiac arrest also experienced a telling symptom 24 hours before their loss of heart function.

In their research, investigators from the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles sought findings to help individuals catch a sudden cardiac arrest before it happens. Their results were published in the peer-reviewed journal The Lancet Digital Health.

Researchers learned that these warning symptoms were different for women than for men. For women, the most prominent symptom of an impending sudden cardiac arrest was shortness of breath. For men, it was chest pain. “Smaller subgroups of both genders experienced abnormal sweating and seizure-like activity,” states a news release on the study by the Smidt Heart Institute.

Out-of-hospital events kill about 90 percent of individuals who experience sudden cardiac arrest, which is when the heart malfunctions and suddenly stops beating. In comparison, a heart attack is when blood flow to the heart is blocked.

“Harnessing warning symptoms to perform effective triage for those who need to make a 911 call could lead to early intervention and prevention of imminent death,” said Sumeet Chugh, M.D., director of the Center for Cardiac Arrest Prevention in the Smidt Heart Institute and senior author of the study, in a statement. “Our findings could lead to a new paradigm for prevention of sudden cardiac death.”

For this study, investigators used two established and ongoing community-based studies in California and Oregon. In both studies, they evaluated the prevalence of individual symptoms prior to sudden cardiac arrest. They  then compared the findings to control groups that also sought emergency medical care.

They found that 50 percent of the nearly 1,700 people who had a sudden cardiac arrest “witnessed by a bystander or emergency medicine professional, such as an emergency medicine service (EMS) responder, experienced at least one telltale symptom before their deadly event,” states the news release.

Chest pain, dyspnoea (shortness of breath), diaphoresis (sweating), and seizure-like activity were most common among patients prior to experiencing sudden cardiac arrest, the study found.

Stress, Insomnia Linked to Higher Risk of Irregular Heart Rhythms After Menopause

Stress and poor sleep may be leading risk factors among the estimated 1 in 4 women who develop irregular heart rhythms after menopause, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, the most common heart rhythm disorder, may lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure or other cardiovascular complications. It primarily affects older adults.  In the new study, researchers reviewed data from more than 83,000 questionnaires by women, ages 50-79, from the Women’s Health Initiative, a separate major U.S. study. Participants were asked a series of questions in key categories: stressful life events, their sense of optimism, social support and insomnia. 

During about 10 years of follow-ups, the study found that about 25 percent, or 23,954 women, developed atrial fibrillation. For each additional point on the study’s insomnia scale, there is a 4 percent higher likelihood of developing atrial fibrillation. Similarly, for each additional point on the “stressful life event scale,” there is a 2 percent higher likelihood of having atrial fibrillation, states a news release by the American Heart Association.

“The heart and brain connection has been long established in many conditions,” said lead study author Susan X. Zhao, M.D., a cardiologist at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, California, in a statement. “Atrial fibrillation is a disease of the electrical conduction system and is prone to hormonal changes stemming from stress and poor sleep.“

Researchers note that while high blood pressure, obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart failure are recognized risk factors for AFib, “more research is needed about how the exposure to psychosocial stress and overall emotional well-being over time may affect the potential development of atrial fibrillation.”

One-Year-Olds May Face Development Delays From Too Much ‘Screen Time’

Two or more hours a day of "screen time" in front of digital devices among 1-year-olds was associated with developmental delays in subsequent years, according to research published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Development delays include lapses in communications, fine motor skills (arm, body, leg, hand and finger movement), problem solving and social skills. Based on data on 7,097 children, researchers found that as screen time increased, so did the likelihood of developmental delays, primarily in communication and problem-solving skills. Research teams at Tohoku University in Japan, with collaborators at Hamamatsu University School of Medicine, conducted the study.

For example, children with up to two hours a day of screen time at age 1 were 61 percent more likely to have delayed development of communication skills by age 2 -- compared to those who had less than an hour a day of screen time. Risk was nearly five times greater for those with four or more hours a day of screen time.

The children in the study were almost evenly split between boys (52 percent) and girls (48 percent). Recent evidence published by the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that only a minority of children are meeting guidelines for limiting screen time exposure, researchers said.

States Tohoku University epidemiologist Taku Obara, corresponding author of the research article, in a statement: "The rapid proliferation of digital devices, alongside the impact of the COVID pandemic, has markedly increased screen time for children and adolescents, but this study does not simply suggest a recommendation for restricting screen time. This study suggests an association, not causation, between screen time and developmental delay."

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