Preventing Sudden Cardiac Death of the Young
Sudden cardiac death of the young (SCDY), or sudden unexplained death, occurs when a young, apparently healthy person dies suddenly from a cardiac arrest or an unknown cause. (SCDY does not include deaths related to drugs, trauma, suicide, homicide, or long illness.) SCDY claims the lives of more than 300 Michigan children and young adults between the ages of 1-39 years annually. For the number of SCDY cases by county in Michigan, please see Appendix D in, “Too Young to Die: An Update on the Impact of Sudden Cardiac Death of the Young in Michigan 1999-2011.”
Many of the causes of SCDY are inherited conditions. In 2007, when Michigan adults were asked about their family history of SCDY, about 1 in 15 (6.3%) responded that at least one biological family member had a sudden cardiac death, or sudden unexplained death, between the ages of 1 and 39. This number was even higher for Michigan adults who were black; 1 in 9 (11.2%) reported a family history of SCDY. For those who have suffered the loss of a family member due to a sudden, unexplained cardiac arrest, prevention of SCDY is of utmost importance. Evaluating your “heart health”, including personal and family history that may point to an inherited cause of SCDY is currently the best way to identify those at risk and prevent sudden cardiac death.
Many steps for preventing SCDY have been identified, beginning with increasing public awareness of SCDY risk factors, cardiac symptoms, and appropriate actions (see Table 5 in, “Too Young to Die“). Another step is to increase community knowledge of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs). The Michigan Alliance for Prevention of Sudden Cardiac Death of the Young (MAP-SCDY) works to prevent death due to sudden cardiac arrest by encouraging communities to be prepared to provide the best possible response to a cardiac emergency. The MI HEARTSafe School Award Program was created to support school communities’ efforts to prevent SCDY by screening athletes for inherited sudden cardiac arrest syndromes and increasing the awareness of how to recognize the signs of a sudden cardiac arrest and respond quickly.
Is your school HEARTSafe?
If someone in your school community suffers a sudden cardiac arrest, would you know what to do? Did you know that early recognition of a cardiac arrest, calling 9-1-1, bystander response with hands-only CPR, and use of an AED greatly increase the chance of survival?
Important questions for schools to consider are:
- Does your school have a cardiac emergency response plan?
- How many students and staff can recognize the symptoms of cardiac arrest and know how to get help “on the way, right away”?
- Who knows CPR in your school and is ready to use it when necessary?
- Where are the automated external defibrillators (AEDs) located in your school building, are they properly maintained and inspected, and who knows how to use them?
The MI HEARTSafe Schools Award Program was developed to help schools be prepared for a cardiac emergency. Schools meeting the minimum criteria will be awarded the MI HEARTSafe School designation, receive a letter of commendation, and be spotlighted on our website, all at no cost to the school.
For questions about MI HEARTSafe Schools Award Program, please email MDHHS-MI-HeartSafe@michigan.gov.