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Causes of cardiac arrest in young adults – Explained!

Causes of Cardiac arrest in Young Adults

Causes of cardiac arrest in young adults – Explained!

An 8-year-old kid died because of a cardiac arrest while kicking a football.

A 21-year-old singer passes away after complaining about chest pain during his concert.

A 16-year-old girl suddenly faints while playing basketball. Upon reaching the hospital doctor declares her dead due to a cardiac arrest.

Although rare, the cases of young people dying because of a sudden and unexpected cardiac arrest or a heart attack have seen a major hike within the past few years.

As per a study conducted by the CDC (Centres For Disease Control And Prevention) more than 2000 young adults, that is, people aged below 25 years die every year because of cardiac arrest in the United States of America.

Most of these deaths are sudden and unexpected with almost zero alarming factors which can indicate or predict the possibility of their occurrence in advance.

They usually attack healthy young individuals at the time of activities such as physical exercise or while playing a sport. In some cases, cardiac arrest can even occur while sleeping.

Understanding the causes and risk factors of cardiac arrest in young adults is therefore important for the timely identification and elimination of any controllable factors that can be avoided.

Here is a list explaining the 4 primary causes of cardiac arrest in young adults—

1. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a hereditary condition in which the muscle cells present in your ventricles (the lower chambers of your heart) grow thicker than normal. It causes the thickening of the heart muscle which ultimately interferes with normal heart functioning by creating problems in efficient pumping of the blood.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the most common cause of cardiac arrest among young adults because of its unrecognizable nature that often remains undiagnosed because it doesn’t show any symptoms.

However, only in a few rare cases, thickened heart muscle might show symptoms like—

Chest pain that occurs particularly while exercising
Faster heartbeats (heart palpitations)
Abnormal or irregular heart rhythm
Shortness of breath
Heart murmur (sound of the heartbeat)

These symptoms worsen when the body is in a state of exhaustion due to sports or has undergone extensive physical exercise.

It is advisable to visit a doctor as soon as the chest pain occurs or if you find difficulty in breathing.

2. Heart Rhythm Disorders

Primary arrhythmias or heart rhythm disorders cause cardiac arrest in people who have a structurally normal heart.

There are many types of arrhythmias but the ones that increase the risk of cardiac arrest in young adults include—

Long QT syndrome
Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome
Brugada Syndrome

Among these long QT syndrome is the most common cause of cardiac arrest in young adults because it gives rise to rapid and abnormally chaotic heartbeats.

Long QT syndrome can occur because of—

Inheritance of altered DNA
Mineral imbalances
As a side effect of some other medical issues
Intake of certain drugs

While the symptoms usually remain hidden, commonly detectable symptoms include—

Sudden fainting

3. Commotio Cordis (Blunt Chest Injury)

Also known as blunt chest injury, commotio cordis is a condition that results in sudden death due to a cardiac arrest which occurs when some external force directly hits your chest.

It usually happens while playing sports like ice hockey, basketball, baseball etc. due to the chest getting hit by sports equipment or after coming in hard contact with another player.

Blind chest injury (commotio cordis) doesn’t bring a change in the structure of the heart. Likewise, it does not damage your heart muscles. Instead, it targets the electrical signaling of your heart ultimately resulting in ventricular fibrillation.

Ventricular fibrillation is a type of arrhythmia that causes irregular heartbeat. When it occurs, the heart rhythm becomes so irregular and so uncoordinated that most often it creates a medical emergency.

Anybody, from kids to teenagers to young adults who have a completely normal and healthy heart can suffer from commotio cordis at any age.

Therefore, it is one of the most widespread and common causes of death due to cardiac arrest in young adults.

4. Myocarditis

In Myocarditis, the myocardium, which is the main muscle of your heart, gets inflamed.

Its inflammation not only disables the heart from pumping blood efficiently but also results in several other negative effects that ultimately result in cardiac arrest.

These include—

Severe chest pain
Shortness of breath
A rapid heartbeat
Irregular heart rhythm that ultimately results in arrhythmia

Myocarditis is caused by the spread of an infection from a specific type of virus. In some cases, it can also happen due to adverse reactions towards a drug.


Young adults should visit their doctor regularly to check for cardiac health to avoid the risk. If you find that you are at a risk of cardiac arrest then avoiding strenuous physical activity including competitive sports can be a good step towards improving your heart health.