A study was carried out to determine the incidence of sudden cardiac death in a well defined population in relation to prodromes, medical history, and previous medical consultations before sudden cardiac death. In Frederiksborg county, Denmark (population 332 000), of 1309 consecutive deaths in a six month period, 166 were due to sudden cardiac death; among men aged 50-69, 22% of all deaths were due to sudden cardiac death. The incidence per 1000 population per year by age group (less than 50, 50-69, greater than or equal to 70 years) was 0.19, 3.6, 11.4 in men and 0.12, 1.0, and 6.4 in women. The increasing incidence with age was significant. Ischaemic heart disease or hypertension had been recorded in 75% (124/166) of patients. Prodromes were reported in 54% (38/71) of patients with angina, and in 26% (25/95) without. Nineteen per cent (32/166) had neither prodromes nor overt heart disease. Forty six per cent of patients with known ischaemic heart disease and 24% without had consulted a doctor less than four weeks before death. Eight per cent had had a myocardial infarction within a year of death.
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