Sudden Death: Causes, Warning Signs And Treatment

Sudden death, causes, signs and treatment

Table of Contents

When someone dies suddenly and unexpectedly, it’s natural to be alarmed, especially when they are well outside the age range where deaths from natural causes are common. Keep reading to learn about some of the most common causes of sudden death, discover some signs and symptoms that can provide an early warning, and see what can be done to prevent conditions that cause sudden death.

What Is Considered As Sudden Death?

According to consensus among health professionals, a death is categorised as a sudden death when it is natural (‘natural’ in this context means not caused by an external reason like injury) and happens within six hours of the first symptoms in a patient who is apparently healthy, or at least who is not severely ill enough that death is expected. That is if the death was witnessed. If it was not witnessed, the person must have been seen alive and well 24 hours before they were found dead for it to be counted as a sudden death.

What Is A Premature Death?

A premature death is not the same as a sudden death. ‘Premature death’ is a term used for a death that happens while the person is under the average age of death for a given population. For example, according to 2022 statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the life expectancy for men and women combined in Australia is 84.32. Governments and researchers often round down the average to create a cut-off for what they count as premature death.

What Are Some Causes Of Sudden Death?

The most common causes of sudden death include cardiovascular conditions like heart arrhythmias that cause sudden cardiac arrest, acute myocardial infarction (or AMI, also called a heart attack), aortic catastrophe, pulmonary embolism, and stroke.

How Common Is Sudden Death In Younger People?

Sudden death in young adults (people between 18 and 35) is rare, with studies finding an incidence of between 0.8 and 6.2 per 100,000 people. 

What Is The Most Common Cause Of Sudden Death?

Cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of sudden death worldwide, making up between 75 and 80 per cent of sudden deaths, according to research

Sudden Death

Sudden Cardiac Death

What Is Sudden Cardiac Death?

Death from causes in the cardiovascular system that happens within an hour of the beginning of symptoms, and where a specific cause can be found is called sudden cardiac death (SCD). If a sudden death occurs and is presumed to have causes originating in the cardiovascular system, but no physical cause can be identified at autopsy, it will be attributed to sudden arrhythmic death syndrome

How Common Is Sudden Cardiac Death?

Sudden cardiac death is the world’s most common cause of death and causes between 180,000 and 300,000 deaths per year in the US. 

Is Sudden Cardiac Death The Same As Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

No. In sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), the heart’s activity suddenly stops due to arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). Sudden cardiac arrest can kill quickly, but it’s possible to survive with prompt medical attention, including first aid. Sudden cardiac death is when all heart activity and breathing stops within seconds, leading rapidly to unconsciousness and death. Although sudden cardiac death is also a sudden cardiac arrest because the heart suddenly stops, a different terminology is used due to the extreme rapidity of death. 

What Are Some Other Causes Of Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

Many heart conditions can lead to sudden cardiac arrest by damaging the heart and its functions, including heart attack (myocardial infarction), cardiomyopathy (a disease of the heart muscle) and arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythms).

What Does Sudden Cardiac Death Feel Like?

Sudden cardiac death may briefly be painful, but pain ceases when the person loses consciousness.

What Causes Most Sudden Cardiac Death?

The immediate cause of sudden cardiac death is generally cardiac arrest, the sudden cessation of heart activity. The most common underlying cause of sudden cardiac death, making up 80% of cases, is coronary artery disease (CAD). 

What Is Coronary Artery Disease?

Coronary artery disease is caused by atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque inside the arteries. This condition is more common in older age groups. Coronary artery disease is largely preventable by healthy lifestyle choices, especially if adopted early in life.

How Can Coronary Artery Disease Be Prevented?

You can reduce your risk of developing coronary artery disease by:

  • Getting enough exercise – 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week will do
  • Losing weight if you are overweight
  • Eating a healthy diet high in vegetables, fruits, lean protein, whole grains and olive oil
  • Not drinking an excessive amount of alcohol 
  • Keeping your blood sugar levels and your blood pressure under control
  • Not smoking
  • Controlling your levels of stress

How Common Is Sudden Cardiac Death In Young People?

 Sudden cardiac death is rare in people under the age of 35. The rate varies depending on the study and the population in question, but one study in Australia and New Zealand found a rate of 1.3 cases per 100,000 in this age group.

What Is The Most Common Cause Of Sudden Cardiac Death In Young People?

The most common cause of sudden cardiac death in people under 35 is an arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). This is often due to genetic abnormalities like familial arrhythmias and hereditary cardiomyopathies.

What Are The Warning Signs Of Sudden Cardiac Death In Young People?

Sudden cardiac death occurs so rapidly that there may not be any symptoms before death. For people who do have symptoms before a sudden cardiac arrest, they may include the following.

Warning Signs Of Sudden Cardiac Arrest

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Feelings of weakness in the body
  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations 

How Do Doctors Know That Someone Has Died Of Sudden Cardiac Death?

When an unexpected sudden death occurs, doctors can often find a reason for cardiac arrest indicated by structural problems with the heart when they perform an autopsy (or post-mortem). For example, heart attack causes damage to the heart, and coronary artery disease is indicated by a buildup of plaque in the arteries, both of which can be seen.

What Happens When Doctors Can’t Find A Cause For A Sudden Death At Post Mortem?

When no cause can be found for an apparent cardiac arrest at autopsy, even after examining the heart and doing tests of tissues and chemicals in the body, doctors diagnose sudden arrhythmic death syndrome (SADS)

Heart Arrhythmias

What Is An Arrhythmia?

An arrhythmia is when the heart doesn’t work properly and develops an abnormal rhythm rather than beating regularly. The beating of the heart is controlled by electrical signals, and the immediate cause of arrhythmia is trouble with these signals. An arrhythmia can be too fast (tachycardia), too slow (bradycardia).

Is Arrhythmia Dangerous?

Yes. Depending on the type of arrhythmia (some are more dangerous than others), it can cause potentially fatal complications like:

  • A stroke
  • A sudden cardiac arrest
  • Heart failure from the gradual weakening of the heart muscle

How Is Arrhythmia Most Likely To Cause Sudden Death?

Arrhythmia is most likely to cause sudden death by causing a sudden cardiac arrest. 

What Kind Of Arrhythmia Is Most Dangerous?

The most dangerous kind of arrhythmia is ventricular fibrillation. This is when the lower chambers of the heart (the ventricles) quiver erratically instead of beating in a normal rhythm.

What Causes Arrhythmia?

Arrhythmia can be caused by cardiovascular disease or other factors.

Cardiovascular Problems That Can Cause Arrhythmia:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Damage to the heart caused by a heart attack
  • Heart valve disorders
  • Inherited conditions (like familial arrhythmias)
  • Healing from heart surgery

Other Problems That Can Cause Arrhythmia:

  • Heavy drinking
  • Stress 
  • Obstructive sleep apnoea
  • Some medications
  • Dehydration
  • Imbalance of the electrolytes in your blood (this can be caused by dehydration)
  • Viral illness, including COVID-19
  • Diabetes 
  • Thyroid problems 

What Are The Early Warning Signs Of Arrhythmia?

Symptoms Of Arrhythmia Can Include:

  • Heart palpitations: you may experience this as a sensation your heart is flip-flopping or skipping a beat, or is too fast or too slow
  • Pounding in your chest
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness 
  • Fatigue 
  • shortness of breath
  • Fainting 

What Is A Familial Arrhythmia?

A familial arrhythmia is an arrhythmia that is genetic and heritable (passed down through families).

What Are Some Kinds Of Familial Arrhythmias?

Some Of The Major Inherited Arrhythmias Include:

  • Long QT syndrome
  • Short QT syndrome
  • Catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia
  • Brugada syndrome
  • Timothy syndrome
  • Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome
Heart Arrhythmias

What Is Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome?

Sudden arrhythmic death syndrome (SADS) is a death from a cardiac arrest where the cause of the cardiac arrest cannot be found. It is determined at post-mortem when the examination can’t find any explanation for death by looking at the structure of the heart or examining body tissues. Arrhythmia can’t be found at post-mortem because electrical signals disappear after death, but the pathologist may test for genetic conditions like familial arrhythmias. This is both to find a possible cause of death and so that relatives of the deceased can be made aware of their risks.

How Common Is SADS In Younger People?

Sudden cardiac death of any kind is rare in younger people. As we stated earlier, for people under the age of 35, it occurs at a rate of only about 1.3 cases per 100,000. Out of this small number of sudden cardiac deaths, a further minority are defined as SADS deaths after other reasons for cardiac arrest can’t be found post-mortem. According to this article, SADS deaths make up only around 30% of young SCD deaths (although it uses a slightly broader definition of ‘younger’, those under 40).

Can Older People Die Of SADS Too?

Older people can die of SADS. However, older people are more likely to have cardiovascular disease, so their deaths are more likely to have an identifiable cause and less likely to be a SADS death. In the US, for example, around 75% of people between the ages of 60 and 79 have cardiovascular disease. If those people were to die, their deaths would be more easily attributed to causes other than SADS.

Are There Warning Signs Of Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome?

SADS is only diagnosed after death, but there are some warning signs that you may have one of the arrhythmias that can lead to SADS.

Warning Signs Of SADS

  • Fainting, especially while exercising or shortly afterwards
  • Heart palpitations
  • Having a member of your family die under the age of 50 while apparently healthy

Can SADS Be Prevented?

SADS can be prevented if the underlying condition that could cause it is identified and a diagnosis is made, either by spotting the warning signs listed above or through genetic testing. This is why testing relatives is so important when someone dies from SADS. If someone is found to have a heritable condition that can lead to SADS, there are prevention measures they can take, including medication and having an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) implanted in their body.

Acute Myocardial Infarction 

What Is A Myocardial Infarction?

A myocardial infarction (MI), also known as a heart attack, is a potentially fatal condition where blood flow to the heart is restricted, resulting in damage to the tissue and the inability of the heart to function. The cause is usually a blockage in one of the blood vessels that supply the heart (coronary arteries).

What Is An Acute Myocardial Infarction?

An ‘acute’ condition in medicine is one that comes on rapidly. Medical sources do not always observe a distinction between a myocardial infarction and an acute myocardial infarction (the terms MI, AMI and heart attack are often used interchangeably), but when they do, the reason may be recency of onset.

Is A Heart Attack A Quick Death?

A heart attack doesn’t necessarily come out of nowhere; it can have symptoms that come on suddenly or over a matter of days or even weeks. But a heart attack can cause rapid death. When this happens, it is usually due to an arrhythmia caused by the heart attack or an inability to pump enough blood due to damage to the heart muscle.

How Does A Heart Attack Cause Sudden Death?

A heart attack can cause several conditions that result in sudden death, including cardiac arrest, cardiogenic shock (sudden and severe heart failure), or heart rupture (where the muscles, walls or valves of the heart come apart).

What Causes A Heart Attack?

The immediate cause of a heart attack is a blockage restricting the blood supply to the heart. This is usually due to a buildup of plaque blocking the arteries (atherosclerosis), but there can sometimes be other causes, like coronary artery spasm. 

The Risk Factors For Heart Attack Include:

  • High levels of LDL cholesterol (the ‘bad’ cholesterol that contributes to the buildup of plaque in the arteries) and low levels of HDL cholesterol (the ‘good’ cholesterol that helps transport LDL cholesterol out of the arteries to be broken down) leading to atherosclerosis
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar levels
  • Smoking 
  • Stress 
  • Physical inactivity
  • Drug use (especially stimulants like amphetamines and cocaine)
  • Preeclampsia (a complication of pregnancy that causes high blood pressure.
  • Having a family history of heart disease, especially a parent or sibling, and especially if it was diagnosed at 55 or younger for a man or 65 or younger for a woman
  • Being male: men have a greater risk of heart attack and tend to have heart attacks earlier in life than women

How Long Do You Have Before A Heart Attack Kills You?

This varies from one person to another. Heart attack symptoms can be present for weeks, but half of all heart attack deaths happen within 3 or 4 hours after the beginning of symptoms, so a suspected heart attack should always be treated as an emergency.

Heart Attack

What Are The Warning Signs Of A Heart Attack?

Common Symptoms Of A Heart Attack Include:

  • Chest pain: this can vary in severity, and it may radiate down the left arm (or both arms), shoulder, neck, jaw, or back
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia 
  • Nausea or stomach discomfort that may be mistaken for indigestion
  • Heart palpitations
  • Anxiety 
  • Sweating 
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness or loss of consciousness

Heart Attack Symptoms In Women

Any of the symptoms above can occur in a woman who is having a heart attack, but women are slightly less likely than men to experience chest pain or indigestion-like discomfort as a heart attack symptom and slightly more likely to have ‘atypical’ symptoms, like shortness of breath, jaw pain, upper back pain, lightheadedness, nausea and vomiting. 

If you think you are experiencing a heart attack, call 000 immediately.

How Can A Heart Attack Be Prevented?

You can take some simple steps that go a long way toward preventing heart attacks and heart disease.

How To Reduce Your Risk Of Having A Heart Attack

  • Eat a heart-healthy diet containing vegetables and fruits, whole grains and lean protein, and minimise the amount of sugar, salt and processed foods you eat
  • Don’t smoke
  • Exercise several times a week
  • Lose weight if you’re overweight
  • Reduce stress and get enough sleep
  • Take any medications that have been prescribed for you, and control any health conditions you know you have, like high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes

In case you or someone you know has a heart attack, it is a good idea to prepare ahead of time by enrolling in an accredited first aid course.

Aortic Catastrophe

What Is The Aorta?

The aorta is a very large artery that goes vertically through the torso, carrying freshly-oxygenated blood all over the body from the heart. As the largest artery in the body, the aorta has an important role, and any problems with this part of the body are serious.


What Is The Difference Between An Aortic Aneurysm, An Aortic Dissection And An Aortic Rupture?

Aortic Aneurysm

An aortic aneurysm occurs when the tissue of the aorta weakens and bulges outwards. The aorta has three layers. In an aneurysm, the three layers remain intact.

Aortic Dissection

When there is a tear in the innermost layer of the aorta and blood rushes between the inner and middle layers, splitting them apart, this is called an aortic dissection.

Aortic Rupture

When the aorta tears through all three layers and blood empties into the rest of the body, it’s called an aortic rupture. The aorta can also rupture because of traumatic injuries like a car accident.

Does Aortic Dissection Cause Sudden Death?

Aortic dissection can cause sudden death by internal bleeding if the dissection ruptures, breaking through all three layers of the aorta and letting out the blood inside. 

How Does An Aortic Catastrophe Cause Sudden Death?

The most common way for an aortic catastrophe to cause sudden death is from massive internal bleeding after an aortic dissection ruptures, causing the blood in the aorta to pour out into the body cavity. Aortic catastrophe can have other potentially fatal complications that can occur rapidly, including stroke.

Is An Aortic Aneurysm Always Fatal?

No, aortic aneurysms can grow quite slowly, and some never burst, especially if they are small and grow slowly. 

How Big Does An Aortic Aneurysm Get Before It Bursts?

Aortic aneurysms are thought to be likely to burst when they grow larger than 5.5 cm across. At this point, surgery will probably be recommended.

What Is An Aortic Catastrophe?

The term’ aortic catastrophe’ usually refers to an aortic dissection, but it also applies to an aortic rupture.

How Quick Is Death From Aortic Rupture?

Death from an aortic rupture can occur in moments as the body’s entire blood supply enters the cavity around the aorta. For this reason, it’s extremely important to treat an aortic dissection before it gets to this point.

Is Aortic Dissection A Painful Death?

Aortic dissection usually causes sudden severe pain in the chest, upper back, or stomach. This is the most notable symptom of aortic dissection.

Who Is Most Likely To Get An Aortic Dissection?

Aortic dissection is rare, but it is most common in men in their 60s and 70s.

Can Aortic Dissection Be Caused By Stress?

Not directly, but stress is a contributing factor in high blood pressure and the development of atherosclerosis. Both are major risk factors for aortic aneurysm and aortic dissection.

What Are The Chances Of Surviving An Aortic Dissection?

Aortic dissection can kill rapidly if left untreated, so prompt medical help is crucial. There is a near 50% mortality rate for acute aortic dissection that goes untreated for 48 hours, and even after surgery, the mortality rate is still at 20 or 30%.

What Are The Warning Signs Of An Aortic Catastrophe?

Unfortunately, there aren’t always symptoms before an aortic aneurysm begins to cause serious trouble. You may be able to spot a growing aortic aneurysm before it dissects or ruptures and becomes an aortic catastrophe by watching for some early signs.

Symptoms Of An Aortic Aneurysm:

  • Shortness of breath 
  • A cough
  • A hoarse voice
  • Pain in your chest, stomach, back or neck, especially if it doesn’t go away
  • A pulsing sensation in your stomach, similar to a heartbeat
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Feeling fuller than you normally would after a small meal
  • Swelling in the arms, neck or face

Once a dissection has occurred, you are likely to see some of the following symptoms:

Symptoms Of An Aortic Dissection:

  • Sharp, sudden pain in your chest or back
  • Sudden severe stomach pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Symptoms resembling those of a stroke: 
    • Trouble with speech or vision
    • Paralysis or weakness on one side of your body
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness 
  • Confusion 
  • Rapid but weak pulse
  • Heavy sweating 
  • Leg pain
  • Trouble walking

If you have any suspicion that you have an aortic dissection, especially if you have any of the symptoms in bold text above, call 000 for an ambulance immediately.

Can Aortic Catastrophe Be Prevented?

As well as seeking medical help promptly if you experience symptoms of aortic aneurysm or aortic dissection, you can reduce your chances of developing these problems in the first place. The steps below will help to reduce your risk of high blood pressure, atherosclerosis and high blood cholesterol, all of which are risk factors for an aortic aneurysm.

How To Reduce Your Risk Of Aortic Catastrophe:

  • Control your blood pressure by making healthy lifestyle choices and taking any blood pressure medications prescribed by your doctor
  • Eat a healthy diet with fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and reduce your intake of salt, saturated fats and trans fats
  • Get regular exercise 
  • Don’t drink excessively
  • Control your weight
  • See your doctor when you notice any changes in your health

The aorta can also rupture from traumatic injury to the chest, so wear a seatbelt when driving.

Pulmonary Embolism

What Is A Pulmonary Embolism?

A pulmonary embolism is when an artery is blocked in the lung and stops the flow of blood there. The blockage is usually a blood clot (thrombus) from a deep vein in the leg (a deep vein thrombosis), but it can come from another part of the body, and the blockage itself sometimes be a fat embolism caused when a bone breaks, or an air bubble.

How Can A Pulmonary Embolism Cause Sudden Death?

If it’s large enough, a pulmonary embolism can cause a sudden cardiac arrest by inducing cardiogenic shock, a situation where the heart is rendered instantly incapable of pumping enough blood to keep the body functioning. Pulmonary embolism can also cause cardiac arrest.

What Triggers Pulmonary Embolism?

Pulmonary embolism is usually caused by a blood clot in the deep veins of one of the legs. Often, it’s a problem of blood collecting in the body, such as during a long period of inactivity (like a hospital stay). A clot can also be caused by injury to a vein, a medical condition, or a medication that causes clotting or interferes with your blood’s ability to clot. 

Is Fatal Pulmonary Embolism Painful?

Yes. One of the most common symptoms of pulmonary embolism is chest pain, which is often described as ‘sharp’ or ‘stabbing’.

What Are The Chances Of Surviving A Pulmonary Embolism?

The chances of survival with a pulmonary embolism depend on how soon it is treated. Out of the people with pulmonary embolisms that aren’t diagnosed and treated, an estimated one-third die, but this improves dramatically when the condition is treated quickly.

What Is The Treatment For Pulmonary Embolism?

If a pulmonary embolism is minor and is caught early, it may be possible to break it up with thrombolytic (clot-dissolving) medication. If it’s bigger, the doctor may have to either use minimally invasive surgery involving threading a thin catheter into the vein to suck out or break down the clot, or open surgery called a pulmonary embolectomy to remove it.

Are There Warning Signs Before A Pulmonary Embolism?

Unfortunately, in about 25% of pulmonary embolism patients, death is the first sign of the condition. But most of the time, there are some early indications.

The Most Common Warning Signs Of A Pulmonary Embolism Are:

  • Chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • Fainting 

Seek help urgently if you experience any of these symptoms.

Other symptoms can include: pain or swelling in one or both of the legs (especially the lower leg at the back), coughing up bloody mucus, a rapid or irregular heartbeat, a feeling of impending doom, lightheadedness or dizziness, sweating, fever, and cyanosis (a bluish discolouration of the skin).

How Can Pulmonary Embolism Be Prevented?

Pulmonary embolism is caused by blood clots, so you can greatly reduce your risk of pulmonary embolism by preventing blood clots.

How To Reduce Your Risk Of Blood Clots And Pulmonary Embolism:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly – even if you’re in a situation where it’s difficult to get up, like during a hospital stay or a flight, move your body regularly
  • Stay hydrated, but don’t drink too much coffee or alcohol
  • Don’t smoke
  • Don’t sit with your legs crossed
  • Avoid wearing tight clothing


What Is A Stroke?

A stroke occurs when blood flow to your brain is interrupted, either when a blood clot obstructs a blood vessel or when a blood vessel ruptures.

Heart Stroke

How Does A Stroke Cause Sudden Death?

A stroke disrupts the blood supply to the brain either through a blood clot or the rupture of an artery. The brain needs a steady supply of oxygen to keep working, and it gets this from oxygenated blood. It only takes a few minutes of disruption to the brain’s blood supply before brain cells start dying, and because the brain controls every function of the body, this can rapidly cause death. The chance of sudden death from cardiac causes, including arrhythmias, can also increase after a stroke, especially if the person has existing heart problems.

What Are The Different Types Of Stroke?

Stroke can be divided into two main types: 

Ischaemic Strokes 

An ischaemic (also sometimes spelled ‘ischemic’) stroke is caused by a blocked artery. This is the more common type of stroke, making up 87% of strokes. 

Ischaemic strokes can be further divided based on where the blockage originated:

Thrombotic Strokes

A thrombotic stroke happens when a thrombus (blood clot) grows in the arteries supplying blood to the brain.

Embolic Strokes

An embolic stroke is one where an embolus (an object that travels through the blood vessels until it causes an obstruction, usually a blood clot) comes from elsewhere and causes a blockage in the arteries of the brain.

Haemorrhagic Strokes

A Haemorrhagic (also sometimes spelled ‘hemorrhagic’) stroke is caused by a rupture inside a blood vessel in the brain. These make up only 13% of all strokes.

Haemorrhagic strokes can be further divided based on where the bleeding occurs:

Intracerebral Haemorrhages 

An intracerebral haemorrhage is one where the bleeding is inside the brain. 

Subarachnoid Haemorrhages

A subarachnoid haemorrhage is one where the bleed occurs in the subarachnoid space (the area between the brain and the membranes around it.

Transient Ischaemic Attack

There is a third type of stroke called a transient ischaemic attack, or TIA. This is a type of ‘minor’ stroke in which the blood supply in the brain is only cut off temporarily because the clot causing the problem dissolves on its own. A TIA has similar symptoms to a regular stroke, but they disappear within 24 hours. A TIA should always be treated with seriousness because a person who has one is more likely to have another stroke in the future. 

What Type Of Stroke Is Most Fatal?

Haemorrhagic strokes. Despite being only 13% of all strokes, haemorrhagic strokes are responsible for 40% of all deaths from stroke. 

What Is A Massive Stroke?

A ‘massive’ stroke is so named because of its results. Any stroke that causes death or major disability is a massive stroke.

Does A Massive Stroke Mean Death?

Not necessarily. It is possible to survive a massive stroke with significant disability: remember, a massive stroke is, by definition, one that causes major disability or death.

What Causes Stroke?

The major underlying causes of stroke are atherosclerosis and long-term high blood pressure. Atherosclerosis leads to ischaemic stroke because the clots that cause obstruction originate in areas where the arteries are narrowed by plaque. High blood pressure leads to haemorrhagic stroke because high blood pressure makes it more likely that a weakened blood vessel wall will burst.

What Are The Warning Signs Of Stroke?

Signs Of Stroke May Include:

  • Numbness or paralysis in your face, arm, or leg
  • Problems with speaking
  • inability to understand what other people are saying, or confusion
  • Trouble walking
  • Problems with seeing out of one or both of your eyes
  • A sudden, severe headache
  • Vomiting 
  • Dizziness 
  • Seizures 

There is an acronym to help remember the main symptoms of stroke: FAST

FACE: is the person’s face or mouth drooping, especially on one side?

ARMS: can they lift both their arms?

SPEECH: are they slurring their words? Can they understand what you’re saying?

TIME to call 000 for an ambulance immediately if you see any of these signs.

How Can Stroke Be Prevented?

Any steps that reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and high blood pressure will also reduce the risk of stroke, and around 80% of strokes are indeed preventable. Anything that’s good for general heart health will help to prevent stroke. 

How To Reduce The Risk Of Stroke

  • Eat a diet that’s good for general cardiovascular health with vegetables and fruits, whole grains and lean protein, and minimise the amount of salt, sugar and processed foods you eat
  • If you smoke, quit
  • Get enough exercise
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Control your stress levels and get good sleep
  • Take any medications you have been prescribed, and if you know you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes, get regular checkups and keep them under control


It is reassuring to note that most of the causes of sudden death we have looked at here have lifestyle-related underlying causes. This means avoiding them is at least partly within our control. And the one condition here that is unrelated to lifestyle, sudden arrhythmic death syndrome, is very rare. Reading about something demystifies it and makes it less frightening. An even better way to feel more prepared for medical emergencies is to enrol in an accredited first aid course.

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