Video: Why are so many young, fit people collapsing and dying? UAE doctors explain

Sudden cardiac arrest strikes young people without warning; however, there are signs or symptoms, including fainting, chest pain, and excessive shortness of breath, among others


SM Ayaz Zakir

Published: Sun 12 Mar 2023, 3:47 PM

Last updated: Mon 13 Mar 2023, 8:47 AM

— Footballer Moustapha Sylla, 21, a defender for RC Abidjan, passed away after collapsing on the field while playing a league match on Sunday in Ivory Coast.

— South African rapper Costa Tsobanoglou died after he collapsed while performing during a music festival. He was 27.

— In Muscat, Oman, a man collapsed while playing badminton. He was smashing and shuttling his way to victory when he collapsed and passed away. The CCTV footage of the sudden death went viral on social media.

— In Mumbai, India, a heart specialist collapsed and died while checking files in the corridor. CCTV captured the incident, which showed the doctor collapsing while writing on a file.

These are some of the many incidents of seemingly fit individuals collapsing and dying. UAE doctors explain that most of these cases are due to sudden cardiac arrest. These could be due to a structural or electrical abnormality of the heart. Most of the abnormalities could be genetically inherited but remain undiagnosed and may be unknown to the athlete.

Dr Sreeram Gopalakrishnan, specialist cardiology Aster Clinic, Muteena, said that in most cases, sudden cardiac arrest strikes young people without warning. However, in some cases, there are warning signs or symptoms, including fainting or passing out during exercise, chest pain, excessive shortness of breath while exercising, palpitations (heart racing) for no reason, and unexplained seizures.

“Sudden cardiac arrest can look like a seizure – so patients with unexplained ‘seizures’ should have an evaluation for underlying heart conditions,” added Dr Gopalakrishnan.

Doctors also said that the athletes develop cardiac conditions, and some do not have a prior history of it. Lack of proper diet or dehydration, unsupervised use of supplements or chemical substances to increase their strength or muscles, or even hormonal supplements to build their body could cause cardiac conditions. “These substances pose a threat of developing potential cardiac conditions and therefore should only be given under supervision,” said Dr Ehab Esheiba, clinical assistant professor and head of the division, Centre for Cardiac Sciences, Thumbay University Hospital.

"Some cardiac conditions can also be genetic, which may include problems in the structure of the muscles, fibres, or the heart's electricity, which can cause the heart to collapse. Most of these conditions can be diagnosed with a thorough physical check-up. It's best to be evaluated and follow preventive measures, like avoiding unsupervised use of supplements or growth elements available over the counter," added Dr Esheiba.

What is cardiac arrest?

Cardiac arrest, in simple terms, means the sudden cessation or stoppage of heart functions. It can be due to a heart attack or disturbance in the electrical activity inside the heart (which can again be a by birth undiagnosed error or supplementary intake, extra stress, lack of adequate diet or hydration for the number of workouts done). “Cardiac arrest is the result that leads to death, and heart attack is blocked arteries that need to be opened and not necessarily fatal,” said Dr Esheiba.

Difference between heart attack and cardiac arrest

A heart attack occurs when there is a supply shortage to the heart muscles due to blockage in the coronary arteries. Insufficient blood supply affects the functioning of the heart.

“While in cardiac arrest, a person's heart stops pumping blood around the body and they die. Cardiac arrests occur when the electrical malfunctioning of the heart causes an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), disrupting blood pumping to the brain, lungs, and other organs,” said Dr Gopalkrishna.

Is it possible to avert a sudden cardiac arrest?

Experts say humans are expected to have a gradual ageing process, and factors that improve their lifespan include regular screenings- if you have a family history of cardiac diseases.

“Other risk factors that can be addressed to avert cardiac arrests due to heart attacks or blockages include screening for diabetes and high blood pressure, smoking cessation, regular exercise, weight loss, and cholesterol and triglycerides management,” said Dr Esheiba.

“Sudden cardiac arrest is fatal because, by definition, it’s death, and the heart ceases all activities. If a patient collapses, they should be promptly treated within three minutes; otherwise, death or permanent loss of brain function may occur,” said Dr Esheiba.

Warning signs of a sudden cardiac arrest

Doctors say that warning signs depend on the underlying cause. People may witness warning signs such as dizziness, chest pain, breathing difficulty, or transient loss of consciousness before a cardiac heart arrest. These signs and symptoms are risk factors that need to be thoroughly examined.

Tips to avoid sudden cardiac arrest

  1. Regular check-up of cardiac risk factors: screening for diabetes, blood pressure, weight management, and moderate regular exercise, around 150 minutes per week
  2. Avoid unsupervised use of supplements, chemical substances, and hormones or growth substances available over the counter or circulating through social media.
  3. Eating healthy.
  4. Conduct regular check-ups.
  5. Do not smoke or use tobacco.
  6. Regularly screen for heart disease.
  7. Control blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol.
  8. Genetic testing is important for early diagnosis and treatment in people with a family of youngsters succumbing to cardiac arrests.


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