Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Do You Need an AED?

I mentioned in a previous post, that my beautiful older cousin died of a rare heart arrhythmia. It is still uncertain why she died of sudden cardiac arrest at such a young age of 30. Very few young people die of cardiac arrest but when they do the causes vary. Some specific causes of sudden cardiac death in young people include:

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM): This is a disease in which the heart muscle (myocardium) becomes abnormally thick, making it harder for the heart to pump blood. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, while usually not fatal in most people, is the most common cause of heart-related sudden death in people under 30. It's the most common cause of sudden death in athletes. HCM often goes undetected.

Coronary artery abnormalities: Sometimes people are born with heart arteries (coronary arteries) that are connected abnormally to the heart. The arteries can become compressed during exercise and not provide proper blood flow to the heart.

Long QT syndrome (LQTS): Long QT syndrome (LQTS) is an inherited heart rhythm disorder that can cause fast, chaotic heartbeats. The rapid heartbeats, caused by changes in the part of your heart that causes it to beat, may lead to fainting, which can be life-threatening. In some cases, your heart's rhythm may be so erratic that it can cause sudden death. Young people with long QT syndrome have an increased risk of sudden death.

Beth was plagued by PVCs but I am certain that they alone are not what killed her. Many doctors believe that premature ventricular contractions do not necessarily cause ventricular tachycardias or ventricular fibrillations, but they could be an indicator of serious heart disease or electrical abnormality.

So now that Home Automated External Defibrillators (AEDS) are available over-the-counter without a prescription, I've often wondered if it would be wise for me to purchase one? The Mayo Clinic has written an excellent article on this topic. An AED certainly would have helped save my cousin's life. But since I'm fairly confident that my PVCs are benign after undergoing extensive testing and I have no other known heart condition, I don't think I need a home AED. Would it give me peace of mind? Maybe. Just as it might give anyone.