Young people need health check

A charity if out to raise awareness of sudden cardiac death. David Mills finds out more about the fatal condition.

Deaths caused by heart conditions are something people tend to associate with older people, or those who smoke and live unhealthy lifestyles.

But it is a tragic fact 12 young people die every week from the undetected syndrome known as sudden cardiac death.

Jim and Barbara Holland, of Elmlee Close, Chislehurst, lost their son Philip to the condition at Christmas 2002.

The 23-year-old is one of 12 faces on a poster unveiled yesterday by charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) outside the House of Commons.

This was to raise awareness of the statistics surrounding cardiac death.

Philip, a trainee accountant with a bright future, collapsed and died while at a church service.

His mother Barbara, 63, said: “He was very active and fit, and did a lot of sport. He seemed very healthy.

“He went to church and felt fine beforehand, he was laughing and joking.

“Then half way through the service he stood up to sing a hymn and collapsed and died.

“It was a tremendous shock. I felt my world had come to an end.”

Each person on the postcard, who were aged between eight and 30, was from London and the south east and died from the illness.

CRY is encouraging greater screening for all people, especially for those who are involved in sport, to detect conditions which might otherwise go undiagnosed.

Leading sports personalities including Sir Steve Redgrave, Paula Radcliffe, Sir Ian Botham, Tim Henman and Andrew Flintoff have all signed a petition to increase awareness.

This month hundreds of postcards will be distributed to CRY supporters across the south east to urge them to send their postcard to their MP.

Mrs Holland is working for CRY as a bereavement support officer.

She said: “It’s important more people are made aware of sudden cardiac death and people are screened.

“Philip could have been checked more thoroughly but obviously it’s easier to say that with hindsight.

“If people show the most basic symptoms, even if they are healthy, if could be life-threatening.

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This is an umbrella terms for a number of different heart conditions which cause death without any warning.

It strikes down hundreds of young people – many of whom were involved in sport – in the prime of their lives.

Sport does not cause this problem but it can exacerbate an existing, undiagnosed condition and the high risk group is young people.

Experts claim sudden cardiac death may be the cause of deaths wrongly recorded as due to asthma, epilepsy or even drowning.

In one in 20 cases, no cause of death is found, even after a post mortem examination.

This is then know as Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome.

For more information, visit CRY’s website at