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Doctor Urges Young People To Get Heart Checked In Bid To Tackle Unexpected Deaths

Doctor Urges Young People To Get Heart Checked In Bid To Tackle Unexpected Deaths

US-based SADS foundation reports that over half of the unexpected deaths occur in children, teens and young adults

A doctor is urging people under 40 to get their hearts checked if they are related to someone who had an unexplained death.

It is hoped that checks may pick up on signs that patients may be at risk of Sudden Adult Death Syndrome (SADS).

SADS is an umbrella term used to describe unexpected death in young people.

The term is used when a post-mortem cannot determine an obvious cause of death and, according to The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, it most commonly occurs in people under the age of 40.

US-based SADS foundation has reported that there are around 4000 SADS deaths with over half of the deaths occurring in children, teens and young adults who presented with the one of the top two warning signs.

It was reported by that these signs include a family history of a SADS diagnosis or sudden unexplained death of a family member, and fainting or seizure during exercise, or when excited or startled.


Last year, Catherine Keane, 31, died in her sleep while living with two friends in Dublin.

Her mother Margherita Cummins told the Irish Mirror: ''They were all working from home so no one really paid attention when Catherine didn't come down for breakfast. They sent her a text at 11.20am and when she didn't reply, they checked her room and found she had passed."

Catherine is said to have maintained a healthy lifestyle, visiting the gym regularly and walking 10,000 steps everyday.

The Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne are currently developing Australia's first SADS registry.

A spokesperson for the Institute said: "There are approximately 750 cases per year of people aged under 50 in Victoria suddenly having their heart stop (cardiac arrest). Of these, approximately 100 young people per year will have no cause found even after extensive investigations such as a full autopsy (SADS phenomenon)."

Cardiologist and researcher Dr Elizabeth Paratz has praised the registry describing it as it has combined ambulance, hospital and forensic information.

Paratz said: "The majority of these SADS events, 90 per cent, occur outside the hospital – the person doesn't make it – so it's actually ambulance staff and forensics caring for the bulk of these patients.

"I think even doctors underestimate it. We only see the 10 per cent who survive and make it to hospital. We only see the tip of the iceberg ourselves. For family and friends of victims, SADS is a 'very hard entity to grasp' because it's a 'diagnosis of nothing."

The cardiologist has recognises that it is not easy to combat SADS through genetic screening as scientists are still not 100 percent clear which gene is responsible.

She added: "'The best advice would be, if you yourself have had a first-degree relative – a parent, sibling, child – who's had an unexplained death, it's extremely recommended you see a cardiologist."

Featured Image Credit: Pexels/Alamy