African-American men had roughly twice the risk as white men at any given age, while black and white women had roughly the same risk all the way through.
The risk for sudden cardiac death actually went down for both genders as age went up, the research team noted. That's because "we've depleted some of those individuals who were going to have an event at younger age, but at [age] 80 many things are competing to kill us so at that point sudden death is less likely to be a cause of death," Lloyd-Jones said.
Having traditional risk factors for heart disease -- such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, lack of physical activity and smoking cigarettes -- also upped the risk of sudden cardiac death substantially, the study found.
"If you reach the age of 50 with all optimal risk factors, essentially no one went on to experience sudden death in their remaining life span, whereas those with two or more major risk factors had much higher rates comparatively," Lloyd-Jones said.
The good news is that the same treatment and prevention strategies already advocated for reducing the risk of heart disease should cover both bases.
"Lowering the risk of heart attack also lowers the risk of dying suddenly," Antman said. "It helps you."
Certain drugs can also help ease heart risks, but two studies released Sunday at the AHA meeting found that a promising anti-clotting medication in development, cangrelor, was no better than the standard blood thinner clopidogrel (Plavix) for patients undergoing angioplasty. The study was also published online Sunday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The two phase III trials took place at more than 200 sites in 18 countries and involved over 14,000 patients. In the larger of the two studies, involving nearly 9,000 patients, researchers found no significant difference in terms of death,
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