Women have a higher risk of this deadly heart disease at night

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In a new study, researchers found for the first time that during nighttime hours, women are more likely than men to suffer sudden death due to cardiac arrest.

The research was conducted by a team at Cedars-Sinai.

Sudden cardiac arrest–also called sudden cardiac death–is an electrical disturbance of the heart rhythm that causes the heart to stop beating.

People often confuse sudden cardiac arrest with a heart attack.

However, a heart attack is caused by a buildup of cholesterol plaque that creates a blockage in the coronary arteries.

And unlike a heart attack, when most have symptoms, sudden cardiac death can present in the absence of warning signs.

Another major difference: Most people survive heart attacks, with only 10% of patients surviving out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.

Of the approximately 350,000 people affected by the condition each year in the U.S., roughly 17% to 41% of cases occur during the nighttime hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

In the study, the team looked at records of 4,126 patients, with 3,208 daytime cases of sudden cardiac arrest and 918 nighttime cases.

Compared with daytime cases, patients who suffered from nighttime cardiac arrest were more likely to be female.

While further work is needed, the researchers suggest there may be a respiratory component causing this increased risk at night for women.

The research also shows 25.4% of females studied suffered cardiac arrest at night versus 20.6% of their male counterparts.

The prevalence of lung disease was much higher in those who had a cardiac arrest at night compared with those who had a cardiac arrest during the daytime.

Those who had cardiac arrests in the nighttime had a higher prevalence of prior or current smoking history.

The team says the prevalence of chronic obstructive lung disease and asthma were found to be significantly higher in sudden cardiac arrest cases at night compared with daytime cases, regardless of gender.

Brain-affecting medications, some of which have the potential to suppress breathing, were also found to have a much greater usage in nighttime compared to daytime cardiac arrest.

Based on these findings, this research report suggests that prescribing physicians may wish to be cautious when recommending brain-affecting medications, for example, sedatives and drugs prescribed for pain and depression management, to high-risk patients, especially women.

One author of the study is Sumeet Chugh, MD, the director of the Center for Cardiac Arrest Prevention.

The study is published in Heart Rhythm.

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