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Major Life Events as Potential Triggers of Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Wicks, April F.a; Lumley, Thomasb; Lemaitre, Rozenn N.c; Sotoodehnia, Nonac; Rea, Thomas D.c; McKnight, Barbarad; Strogatz, David S.e; Bovbjerg, Viktor E.f; Siscovick, David S.a,c

doi: 10.1097/EDE.0b013e31824d5d82
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Background: We investigated the risk of sudden cardiac arrest in association with the recent loss of, or separation from, a family member or friend.

Methods: Our case-crossover study included 490 apparently healthy married residents of King County, Washington, who suffered sudden cardiac arrest between 1988 and 2005. We compared exposure to spouse-reported family/friend events occurring ≤1 month before sudden cardiac arrest with events occurring in the previous 5 months. We evaluated potential effect modification by habitual vigorous physical activity.

Results: Recent family/friend events were associated with a higher risk of sudden cardiac arrest (odds ratio [OR] = 1.6; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.1–2.4). ORs for cases with and without habitual vigorous physical activity were 1.1 (0.6–2.2) and 2.0 (1.2–3.1), respectively (interaction P = 0.02).

Conclusions: These results suggest family/friend events may trigger sudden cardiac arrest and raise the hypothesis that habitual vigorous physical activity may lower susceptibility to these potential triggers.

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From the aDepartment of Epidemiology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA; bDepartment of Statistics, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand; cDepartment of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA; dDepartment of Biostatistics, University of Washington, Seattle, WA; eBassett Research Institute, Cooperstown, NY; and fCollege of Public Health and Human Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR.

Submitted 21 July 2011; accepted 20 January 2012; posted online 13 March 2012.

Supported by grants from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Training grant (I-T32-HL07902), the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (HL091244, HL088456, HLA41993), and the University of Washington Clinical Nutrition Research Unit (DK-35816). Initial support was provided by the Medic One Foundation, Seattle, WA. The authors reported no other financial interests related to this research.

Supplemental digital content is available through direct URL citations in the HTML and PDF versions of this article ( This content is not peer-reviewed or copyedited; it is the sole responsibility of the author.

Correspondence: April F. Wicks, UW Cardiovascular Health Research Unit, 1730 Minor Avenue, Suite 1360, Seattle, WA 98101. E-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.