October is National Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month. The month is dedicated to educating patients and the public about what sudden cardiac arrest is and how to respond to a cardiac arrest.
What is sudden cardiac arrest? Sudden cardiac arrest is when the heart suddenly stops beating. There is no blood flow to the brain and other vital organs. It is estimated that approximately 300,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur each year in the United States, with a median reported survival-to-hospital-discharge rate of only 8 percent. Sudden cardiac arrest typically causes death if it’s not treated within minutes.
Sudden cardiac arrest occurs most often in people in their mid-thirties to mid-forties. Statistics show it affects men twice as often as women.
There are some critical steps you can take in increasing your chances of survival. They include:
- Activation of emergency medical services by calling 9-1-1
- Starting cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
- Using an automated external defibrillator
- Getting appropriate care
Several factors can lead to sudden cardiac arrest. They include:
- Coronary artery disease, which reduces blood flow to the heart muscle
- Severe physical stress, which raises the risk for abnormal electrical activity in the heart
- Inherited diseases that disrupt the heart’s electrical activity
- Structural changes in the heart that cause electrical signals to spread abnormally
Do you know the signs and symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest? A loss of consciousness, fainting, is usually the first sign. Some people may have a racing heartbeat or feel dizzy or lightheaded just before they faint. Chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, or vomiting may develop.
Treatment with a defibrillator that sends an electric shock to the heart may restore a normal rhythm to a heart that’s stopped beating, but defibrillation must be performed within minutes to achieve any success.
In a recent study by the University of Michigan Health System, researchers report that chest compressions first versus defibrillation first is as effective as immediate defibrillation in cases where the wait for emergency help is longer than five minutes. The study was published online in BMC Journal.
Bystanders are encouraged to immediately begin CPR using only chest compressions until professional help arrives, according to the American Heart Association. Please check out the American Red Cross video on how to perform CPR.
If you have questions or concerns about a specific health product or any health issue, please feel free to contact me. Your comments are always appreciated. Feel free to share this article with your friends and family. Get information on public health issues by clicking the subscribe button above and simply entering your email address for spam-free articles delivered straight to your inbox.