Report: More heart attack survivors at fitness centers

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University of Wisconsin Madison | August 9, 2013

MADISON—People who have sudden cardiac arrest at exercise facilities have a higher chance of survival than at other indoor locations, likely due to early CPR and access to an automated external defibrillator (AED), among other factors, according to a study published online Aug. 8 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The findings underscore the importance of having AEDs in places where people exert themselves and are at greater risk of sudden cardiac arrest.

Dr. Richard L. Page, lead author of the study and chair of the department of medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, said the university's' findings suggest AEDs—as well as instructions on their use—become more commonplace at traditional fitness centers. But AED use can be extended to more than just gums and health clubs.

The report noted previous studies have shown that regularly exercising greatly reduces a person's overall risk of sudden cardiac stress; however, during and immediately following exercise the risk of sudden cardiac arrest is slightly higher. Because AEDs have been proven to save lives when used quickly after sudden cardiac arrest, they are often placed in health clubs and gyms. Less is known about the frequency of sudden cardiac arrest at other indoor locations where exercise talks place, such as bowling alleys, dance studios or community centers, but AED placement is less common.

This study looked at the frequency, treatment and outcomes of sudden cardiac arrest at both traditional and alternative exercise facilities. Researchers looked at  849 sudden cardiac arrests that occurred at public indoor facilities in Seattle and King County, Wash., from 1996-2008.

Location of the sudden cardiac arrest was categorized as a traditional exercise facility (health clubs, fitness centers), as an alternative exercise facility (bowling alleys, workplace or hotel gyms, dance studio) or a non-exercise facility (banks, restaurant, shopping centers, airports).

In total, 52 sudden cardiac arrests occurred at traditional exercise facilities, 84 at alternative exercise facilities and 713 at non-exercise facilities. Survival rates were 56 percent, 45 percent and 24 percent, respectively. Where information was available on the activity at the time of arrest, in 77 percent of the cases the sudden cardiac arrest occurred during exercise, with only 18 percent occurring after exercise and four percent before exercise.

Researchers also collect information on what type of exercise people were doing when the sudden cardiac arrest occurred. The most common activity was basketball, with 20.5 percent of occurrences. Basketball is often played at non-traditional exercise facilities, like community centers or church gyms. Following basketball were dancing and working out, both at 11.5 percent, treadmill at 8.89 percent; tennis at 6.3 percent; bowling at 5.4 percent; and swimming at 4.5 percent.

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