A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found chronic kidney disease to be the strongest risk factor for sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) among Latino adults.

The study, conducted by researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, evaluated risk factors for SCA in Latino adults in the United States, who historically have been underrepresented in cardiovascular disease research, according to an article in Stat News.

SCA occurs when the heart stops beating and affects about 350,000 people in the United States annually. Researchers identified clinical predictors that influence out-of-hospital SCA and found that half of SCA patients in the study had chronic kidney disease.

“Sudden cardiac arrest is a major cause of death, yet little is known about risk factors for SCA among Hispanic and Latino individuals, who make up about 19% of the U.S. population,” said lead study author Kyndaron Reinier, PhD, MPH, associate director for epidemiology in the Center for Cardiac Arrest Prevention at the Smidt Heart Institute of Cedars-Sinai.

For the case-control study, researchers compared 295 Latino adults who had had SCA to a control group of Latino adults who had not. Results showed that 51% of people who experienced SCA had previously diagnosed chronic kidney disease and 20% of those people had end-stage kidney disease requiring dialysis.

“While more research needs to be done, it is possible that dialysis treatment, which is used in severe or end-stage [chronic kidney disease], could be associated with increased risk of lethal arrhythmias resulting in SCA,” said study author Sumeet Chugh, MD, a professor of cardiology at Cedars-Sinai. “It turns out that even moderate [chronic kidney disease] could increase SCA risk, but the mechanisms by which this happens have not been determined yet.”

The study primarily included Latinos living in Southern California who were mostly of Mexican descent. Authors noted that the results of their study may not apply to other Latinos.

“These results suggest that the burden of this devastating syndrome needs to be addressed with multiple public health efforts, including prevention and management of risk factors as well as strengthening awareness and infrastructure of systems of care to better respond when patients do have cardiac arrest,” said Jason Wasfy, MD, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and cardiologist at Mass General Brigham, who was not involved with the study, according to the Stat News article.