GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- It happens first thing in the morning and it's a condition that can kill a perfectly healthy person. Nearly 300,000 people die of sudden cardiac death every year in the United States and now researchers believe they know why.
"Electricity is traveling through with every heart beat," says Dr. Darryl Elmouchi, an electro cardiologist with Spectrum Health. He explains how proteins play a role in interrupting that electrical circuit, causing a heart attack. "Certain proteins in the body change over the course of the day; you have more in the morning, less in the evening depending on your body's own clock and this protein is very sensitive to that circadian rhythm. It turns out when people have fluctuations in the amount of this protein, that's when they die suddenly."
Researchers at Case Western Reserve were able to pinpoint the exact protein in mice that causes sudden cardiac death.
Dr. Elmouchi says this finding may be the first step in being able to screen for those who have a problem with fluctuating protein levels. "If you can come up with a medication that prevents this variation in the protein and regulates it, you could potentially save many lives."
Right now Elmouchi says there is no way to know who is at risk for this type of sudden cardiac death; it's not hereditary and it can't be detected in an EKG.
"It's believed that all of us have varying levels of this protein and some people have a predisposition to have more or less at certain times."
Monday mornings rank highest for sudden cardiac death. The speculation is that not only do you have a higher level of protein at that time of the day, but you're also a little stressed out about getting back to work.