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Why do healthy young people drop dead of cardiac arrest?: World-first data bank seeks to find out

A third of sudden cardiac arrest deaths among young people go unexplained, and a world-first Australian genetic data bank seeks to uncover why these seemingly healthy young people are dying.

The data bank will collect blood samples from those who die from cardiac arrest, survivors, and their families, to identify early warning signs and risk factors.

Andre La Gerche, head of sports cardiology at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, said about half of people who have sudden cardiac arrest have symptoms beforehand.

“That still leaves at least half of the people where we have no idea,” he told 3AW’s Ross and John.

“Even after they die and we do comprehensive studies, for perhaps as many as a third of the patients, we still have no idea.”

For younger people who have cardiac arrest, approximately a third have fatty gunk in the arteries, while another third have heart muscle or electrics problems.

But in one-in-three cases, the cause of cardiac arrest remains a complete mystery.

“No matter what we do or look at, at the moment we can’t explain why they died suddenly,” Mr La Gerche said.

Strangely, athletes are at slightly higher risk than the general population.

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