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Sudden Death Risk Highest 30 Days After Heart Attack
Date:11/4/2008

But mortality rate has declined over past 3 decades, study shows

TUESDAY, Nov. 4 (HealthDay News) -- The risk of sudden death after a heart attack has improved significantly over the past three decades, but the first 30 days remain a period of great danger, an historical study shows.

The study looked at the experiences of almost 3,000 residents of Olmsted County in Minnesota who had heart attacks between 1979 and 2005.

"There were two main aspects of the study that we did not necessarily anticipate," said Dr. Veronique Roger, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Mayo Clinic, and lead author of the report in the Nov. 5 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. "One was how much the risk of sudden death after a heart attack has decreased over time. The magnitude of decline was 40 percent over the study period. The second was that if a patient experienced heart failure at any time during the follow-up, the risk of sudden death increased substantially."

In all, 1,160 of those who had heart attacks died, 24 percent of them suffering sudden cardiac death. The incidence of sudden cardiac death was 1.2 percent in the first 30 days. It decreased sharply after that, leveling off at 1.2 percent a year, lower than the rate of sudden death in the general population.

Among heart attack survivors who experienced heart failure, the rate of sudden cardiac death was 2.5 percent in the first 30 days and in each of the following years.

The study "underscores the imperative to work together to provide the best possible care" in the weeks after a heart attack, Roger said. "We need to be particularly alert to monitor patients regularly for any sign of heart failure, to apply additional treatments, therapeutic and management options," she said.

If there are suspicions of heart failure, the progressive loss of the heart's ability to pump blood, an imaging study such as echocar
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