What is sudden cardiac arrest?
Sudden cardiac arrest is a life-threatening condition in which your heart comes to a standstill. Your heart isn’t pumping blood anymore. Within minutes, this puts your organs and whole body at risk of death. They must constantly receive oxygen. Your blood delivers that oxygen.
What is sudden cardiac death?
Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is a sudden, unexpected death. A loss of heart function (sudden cardiac arrest) causes it.
What happens during sudden cardiac death?
When you have a sudden cardiac arrest, your body’s organs can’t receive any oxygen. Without immediate help to get oxygen to your brain and other vital organs, this is fatal.
How common is sudden cardiac arrest?
An estimated 74 people out of 100,000 received emergency treatment for cardiac arrest outside a hospital in 2018. Also, an estimated 1 out of 7 people died from sudden cardiac death in America in 2017.
What are the symptoms?
In more than half of the cases, sudden cardiac arrest happens without prior symptoms.
Sudden cardiac arrest symptoms may include:
- Fainting (losing consciousness).
- Racing heartbeat.
- Chest pain.
- Shortness of breath.
- Feeling sick to your stomach and throwing up.
This means that a potentially dangerous heart rhythm problem has started, which is why these are also sudden cardiac death symptoms.
What are the risk factors of sudden cardiac arrest?
Many factors can increase your risk of sudden cardiac arrest and sudden cardiac death.
The two leading risk factors include:
- Previous heart attack: Your risk of sudden cardiac death is higher during the first six months after a heart attack. Healthcare providers link 75% of sudden cardiac deaths to a previous heart attack.
- Coronary artery disease: Risk factors for coronary artery disease include smoking, family history of cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol or an enlarged heart. There’s a link between 80% of sudden cardiac deaths and coronary artery disease.
How is sudden cardiac arrest diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider can diagnose a sudden cardiac arrest if you:
- Aren’t breathing.
- Have no pulse.
- Aren’t conscious.
Many cases of sudden cardiac arrest are diagnosed post-mortem, as this condition is often fatal.
How is sudden cardiac arrest treated?
You can treat and reverse sudden cardiac arrest. However, emergency action has to start immediately. Survival can be as high as 90% if treatment starts within the first minutes after sudden cardiac arrest. The rate drops by about 10% each minute longer.
If you see someone experiencing sudden cardiac arrest, do this:
- Call help immediately.
- Start CPR, even if it’s just the hands-only version. CPR can save a life. It keeps blood and oxygen circulating until help arrives.