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HEALTH REPORT - July 3, 2002: Sudden Cardiac Death - 2002-07-01

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

An American professional baseball player, Darryl Kile, died recently. He was thirty-three years old and seemed to be in good health.

An examination of his body showed that two of the three blood vessels leading to his heart were almost completely blocked. Doctors call this condition atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. It develops when arteries become narrowed and cannot carry blood to the heart. The arteries may contain fatty substances that block the flow of blood.

These conditions can lead to a heart attack or sudden death. Kile’s body showed no evidence of a heart attack. However, doctors say that people with severe blockages of a heart artery can die from an abnormal heart beat. This is what they think happened to Kile.

The death of a seemingly healthy professional athlete surprised many people. Doctors say that such a serious amount of blockage is very unusual for someone so young. However, Darryl Kile’s father died after a stroke at the age of forty-four. Strokes often result from a build-up of fatty substances in the blood vessels of the brain.

Doctors say the death of a close family member from a heart attack or stroke is one sign that a person has an increased chance of developing a similar problem. They say that knowing your family’s medical history may be one of the most important things you can do to protect your health.

They say this is especially true if the family member died before the age of fifty. This could mean that a genetic problem exists. People in this situation should ask their doctor for tests to measure the health of major arteries. Doctors can usually treat such problems.

Other things also increase the chance of developing heart problems or a stroke. These include smoking cigarettes, weighing too much and not exercising. Still other risk factors include having high cholesterol, high blood pressure or the disease diabetes.

The World Heart Federation says heart attacks and strokes kill seventeen-million people around the world each year. That is thirty percent of all deaths. The organization says people can reduce their chances of a heart attack or stroke by exercising, stopping smoking and eating foods low in fat.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Nancy Steinbach.