CAIRO: With no minimal introductions or explanations, the life of a young university student or athlete might come to an abrupt end. The reasons explaining why an apparently healthy twenty-something died of a sudden heart attack are scarce. Some say it is fate, but no one is denying that it is a phenomenon that has been gaining momentum in recent years.
Finding out the reasons could be difficult, but it’s not impossible.
“Nearly 50 percent of people who die at early ages have inherited congenital abnormalities of the heart and the brain vessels. Those abnormalities exist at birth, have no symptoms and can be hardly diagnosed, says Dr. Emile Fayez, cardiology professor.
The only cause of sudden death is an unexpected stop in the heart muscle. “Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is what actually causes death, Fayez adds. “It can be observed when thickness or inflation starts to appear in [the heart muscle], leading to what is called as ‘ventricular fibrillation,’ in which numerous chaotic electrical discharges to the chambers of the heart result in no blood being pumped, explains Fayez, adding that the blood never reaches the brain and consequently, death occurs.
As the abnormalities are already present, but hidden, the patient might feel palpitations, which are irregular heart pulses, fatigue and chest pain two days before death.
“If he/she exerted tiring muscular efforts, the abnormalities may appear causing ventricular fibrillation and thus, death, says Fayez.
He says that the other 50 percent of those who die at a young age suffer from abnormalities in brain vessels.
“In these cases, the brain vessels are found to be inflamed like a balloon that might explode at any moment, Fayez explainsm. Due to any excessive muscular or mental effort, the enlarged vessels explode and influence other brain vessels.
He adds that in those cases, the patient does not die immediately.
“Contrary to the sudden death caused by the heart [malfunction], patients who have abnormalities in brain vessels do not immediately die, says Fayez. He explains that they die two or three hours later, when the oxygen doesn’t reach the whole body, causing damage to the organs.
According to Hughston Health Alert, a newsletter published by the United State-based Hughston Sports Medicine Foundation, sudden death is common among young athletes, especially football and basketball players. Football, however, is the sport most commonly associated with sudden death.
“Sports are not a cause of enhanced mortality, but they can trigger sudden death in athletes with heart or blood vessel abnormalities by predisposing them to life-threatening heart irregularities, reads the Hughston Health article Sudden Death in Athletes.
Sudden death occurs annually in one or two of every 200,000 athletes. It predominately strikes male athletes, the article continues.
Just recently, the country was saddened by the death of two prominent young soccer players: Ahli s Mohamed Abdel-Wahab and El Tersana s Ahmed Wahid. The phenomenon, however, isn t limited to Egypt; several young athletes around the world have died suddenly during games or practices.