Sudden Cardiac Arrest: The Race Factor

300,000 people die each year from sudden cardiac arrest

300,000 people die each year from sudden cardiac arrest. It happens when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions and blood stops pumping. A study from the American Heart Association shows African Americans are more likely to die from sudden cardiac arrest than Caucasians; but one family refused to be another statistic.


It can happen in a matter of minutes.


For years, 42 year old Tashia Youmans loved making memories with her family. All the while, she had no idea she was a ticking time bomb.


Youmans told Ivanhoe, “It was a hole in my heart. And I could look at my fingertip and go ‘wow, this is about 10 millimeters.’”


At a yearly checkup, Tashia’s doctor found the hole, which they say she had since birth. That defect greatly increased her odds of suffering sudden cardiac arrest.


William Youmans, Tashia’s husband told Ivanhoe, “Sometimes I didn’t really want to sit there and actually have to hear it, but I knew I had to for my wife.”


Tashia and her family are not alone. New research from the American Heart Association shows that blacks are twice as likely as whites to experience sudden cardiac arrest.


Swathy Kolli, MD, Cardiologist at Orlando Health said, “And the more concerning thing is that they actually tended to be younger than their caucasian counterparts.”


The study also found that blacks had higher rates of other risk factors — like diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney failure. Experts aren’t sure why they found a discrepancy, but some say it’s a wakeup call.


Dr. Kolli told Ivanhoe, “Prevention will make all this better. So we really should start looking at prevention rather than treatment for most of these conditions.”


Tashia is thankful doctors were able to repair the hole in her heart before it was too late. The family has adopted a heart-healthy diet and lifestyle.


“Thank God that I’m still alive and I’m glad I actually acted on my um instinct to go to the doctor,” Tashia explained.


For the study, researchers collected data on black and white residents in Portland, Oregon who experienced sudden cardiac arrest over a 10 year period. Researchers have now also expanded their research to study a community with a large Latino population. According to the American Heart Association 50 percent of all cardiovascular deaths in America are the result of sudden cardiac arrest.