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Our Health

August 27, 2012

Sudden cardiac death less likely after exercise, study says

NEW YORK — People whose hearts stop functioning during or shortly after exercising are three times more likely to survive than those who have cardiac arrest unrelated to working out, researchers said.

The Amsterdam Resuscitation Study looked at 2,517 cardiac- arrest cases in the Dutch capital's greater metropolitan area over a three-year period. Scientists found 145 of the patients were exercising during or within one hour of cardiac arrest and were mostly biking, playing tennis, working out at a gym or swimming, according to the research presented today at the European Society of Cardiology conference in Munich.

Almost half of the patients who were exercising survived the event and they had a much better prognosis than those who weren't working out, the study said. Only 15 percent of those whose cardiac arrest wasn't exercise-related lived, the study said. Those who were exercising were mostly young and male and suffered cardiac arrest in a public place where they were more likely to receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, from a bystander, according to the researchers.

"The remarkably good survival of victims of exercise- related out-of-hospital cardiac arrest can partially be ascribed to the fact that they are younger and more likely to suffer the arrest in a public location, leading to bystander CPR," Arend Mosterd, a cardiologist at the Meander Medical Center in Amersfoot, the Netherlands, and a co-author of the study, said in a statement Sunday. "Taking these factors into account, exercise per se also contributes to a better outcome."

A sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the heart's electrical system malfunctions, causing the organ to stop beating. Performing CPR or using a defibrillator to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm within minutes can reverse sudden cardiac arrest.

In the study, none of the patients who were exercising and survived suffered serious neurological damage, which wasn't the case for non-exercise related cases, Mosterd said.

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