Warning Signs & Risk Factors

Often there is no prior warning sign that identifies a person at risk of SCA.  Possible warning signs, when present, can include:

  • Fainting  or dizziness with exercise

  • Excessive fatigue or shortness of breath with exercise

  • Chest pain or chest discomfort with exercise


Similarly, there may be no known risk factor that identifies a person at risk of SCA.  Risk factors for SCA, when present, can include:

  • Diseases causing abnormal heart structure, for example Congenital Heart Disease and various forms of Cardiomyopathy.

  • Electrical diseases of the heart, which can predispose to abnormal heart rhythms like ventricular fibrillation. These include Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome and Long QT Syndrome.

  • Coronary Artery Disease, most commonly caused by atherosclerosis.  (Risk factors for atherosclerosis include obesity, high blood pressure, sedentary lifestyle, tobacco use, diabetes and a family history of coronary artery disease).

  • Exposure to certain drugs of abuse such as cocaine, inhalants, recreational or club drugs, and even some prescription medications.

  • Family history of sudden unexplained or sudden cardiac death in a close relative before age 50.

  • Sudden blow to the chest directly over the heart (called commotio cordis).