New research reveals that 50 percent of cardiac patients have a physical symptom a day before suffering cardiac arrest.
The findings are nuanced, according to medical researchers at the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, with women and men having distinct yet prominent warning signs of the impending and often fatal health crisis.
Women tend to have shortness of breath, while men experience chest pain, according to the researchers who published their findings in the journal Lancet Digital Health.
Other, less common warning signs that both genders experienced include seizure-like activity and abnormal sweating.
The researchers say knowing that there are telltale signs that can be specific to gender can help patients and their medical team head off these sudden cardiac attacks, which are fatal as much as 90 percent of the time.
"Harnessing warning symptoms to perform effective triage for those who need to make a 911 call could lead to early intervention and prevention of imminent death," said the study's principal investigator Summet Chugh in a statement. "Our findings could lead to a new paradigm for prevention of sudden cardiac death."
Chugh's team looked at data from two studies of cardiac arrest in California and Oregon, which included patients ranging in age from 18 to 85. For comparison, researchers also looked at people who had similar warning signs but did not experience cardiac arrest.
Patients who notice a warning sign and call emergency services before they collapse from a sudden cardiac arrest are five times more likely to survive, the researchers said.
"Warning symptoms hold promise for prediction of imminent sudden cardiac arrest but might need to be augmented with additional features to maximize predictive power," the researchers wrote.
Updated to remove references to heart attacks, which are different from cardiac arrest.
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