HCM – The Most Dangerous Thing You Have Never Heard Of Of

Posted: July 14, 2015    |   John Ehinger

This summer, a new Institute of Medicine (IOM) report cited 600,000 annual deaths from Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) in the US – an ominous 33% increase over previous benchmark figures from the AHA and other bodies. While it remains to be seen if the IOM’s figure reflects an increasing incident rate or simply a better understanding of the underlying facts, clearly SCA is a major issue in our country.

With the release of its findings, the IOM has called for an increase in attention and education regarding the SCA problem, including correcting the common misperception that SCA is a geriatric ailment. While age can play a role, SCA can be the result of a range of factors from general health problems to genetics.

On the genetic front, an interesting article was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology earlier this year. The article, “New Perspectives on the Prevalence of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy” was penned following research by Dr. Christopher Semsarian and his colleagues investigating the incidence of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM). Though you may not be familiar with HCM, it is one of the most common genetic heart disorders. HCM affects males and females alike, and as it is a genetic issue, it knows no age boundaries. Unfortunately HCM is often asymptomatic until SCA occurs.

This new research suggests that HCM is nearly three times more common than previously estimated – impacting 1 out of every 200 people. Among other factors, the authors cite advances in genetic testing and cardiac imaging as well as improved recognition of the “familial nature of the disease” as the key drivers of the revised estimate.

Obviously, these results have a bearing on the population at large, but they also merit specific consideration from the business management perspective, as even small companies are at risk when employees, vendors, and customers are all contemplated. Consider the example of a 50-table restaurant with two seatings and an average of four people per table. Each day, it should expect two people to be on site who are at high risk of cardiac arrest due to HCM – before even considering its own workers or suppliers. Obviously, the math adds up quickly. A larger retailer with 1,000 daily customers has five people at high risk, an enterprise with 10,000 employees has 50 high risk individuals on site every day, etc. Ultimately, HCM is only one precipitator of SCA, but the findings of Dr. Semsarian’s group do line up with the higher levels of SCA incidence noted by the IOM.

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