Understanding Sudden Cardiac Death in Women

~ By DrZakia Khan, Interventional Cardiologist, Fortis Hospital, Kalyan~

The sudden demise of legendary actress Sridevi, due to a Cardiac Arrest, previously cited by medical records, created shock waves amongst scores of fans in India and beyond. Cardiac Arrests in women are not widely spoken of, and is often neglected; yes, women too are susceptible of ‘Sudden Cardiac Arrest’. On the observance of International Women’s Day, acknowledging the risks of cardiac arrest in women and its prevalence is the need of the hour.


It is difficult to establish the diagnosis of heart disease in women, women generally present about 10yrs later than men and arise with a greater risk-factor burden.Women are less likely than men, to have typical Angina (chest pain), and those who arrive at the emergency room with a new onset of chest pain are approached and diagnosed less aggressively than men. However, fatality of heart attacks in women is higher than that amongst men. It is clear that many cases of heart attacks in women go unrecognized, particularly at younger ages or in patients with Diabetes.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) which subsequently leads to Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) is caused due to the unexpected termination of organized cardiac electrical activity. SCD among all age groups can be associated to Coronary Heart Disease, Arrhythmias (irregular heart beat), and other structural cardiac disease; while some occur due to non-cardiac causes.Women with intermediate or higher risk should be evaluated immediately.

Watching out for heart disease:

  • Six minutes’ walk test: if you can walk for more than 500mtrs in six minutes, you may not have significant blockages or if you can walk 2km or climb two flights of stairs without taking a break, you may not have significant blockages
  • It is recommended to refrain from ignoring unexplained weakness, tiredness, initial onset of chest burnor first onset of breathlessness after the age of 40
  • If we know of any male member of your family with a history of heart disease before 55 or female before 65, you should get tested immediately!

What to do in sudden cardiac arrest?:

  • Initiate CPR in all cases of sudden cardiac arrest and do not stop until medical help arrives
  • List out emergency numbers in the house, the list should comprise of peripheral hospitals & nursing homes, ambulance services and those of your immediate family residing in the vicinity
  • The person needs to be treated with a defibrillator; this sends an electric shock to the heart, transporting the patient to the nearest hospital is critical.
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