Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY), a national charity which raises awareness of sudden cardiac deaths in young people as the result of undiagnosed heart conditions, has launched its first public awareness campaign.

The campaign aims to emphasise the importance for cardiac screening among young people and the need for unexplained symptoms to be explored. It’s estimated that every week 12, apparently fit and healthy young people die suddenly from previously undiagnosed heart conditions. 

The launch includes a videographic and film, which shows a teenage boy on a rugby pitch suddenly collapsing of a heart attack.

CRY says cardiac screening of 14-35 year olds has a vital role in identifying those at risk. But it also wants to raise awareness of the importance of appropriate follow-up of unexplained symptoms such as fainting, blackouts and palpitations, rather than allowing them to be dismissed.

The charity points out that although sport does not cause sudden cardiac death in young people, intensive physical activity – particularly endurance sports such as rowing, rugby, football and long-distance running – can exacerbate an underlying condition.

CRY has found that about one in every 300 of the 15,000 under-35s it tests every year, as part of its national screening programme, carries a potentially life-threatening condition. The programme offers an electrocardiogram and, if necessary, a follow-up echocardiogram.

The charity’s director of screening Dr Steven Cox said: “It is essential that anyone with a potentially fatal heart condition knows about it and, if necessary, takes the appropriate steps to avoid putting their life at risk. This could include medical or surgical treatment or caution when taking part in some sports or when taking specific medications.”

He added: “At CRY, we believe screening needs to be extended to all young people. Although screening will not identify all those at risk, in Italy, where screening is mandatory for all young people engaged in organised sport, the incidence of young sudden cardiac death has been reduced by around 90%.”