Sudden cardiac arrest: A fatal condition without warning
Sudden cardiac arrest is a life-threatening emergency that happens when your heart suddenly stops beating. As a result, the person becomes unconscious and breathing stops. Immediate treatment is required or the person will die.
Survival is possible with swift action and medical care. Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death and "causes about 300,000 to 450,000 deaths in the United States each year," according to the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute. "Cardiac arrest causes about half of the deaths linked with heart attack and stroke."
A common misconception about sudden cardiac risk is that it's basically a heart attack, but that isn't accurate. The Mayo Clinic says, Sudden cardiac arrest isn't the same as a heart attack. A heart attack happens when blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked.
Sudden cardiac arrest is not due to a blockage. However, a heart attack can cause a change in the heart's electrical activity that leads to sudden cardiac arrest.
Anyone is at risk, but there's ways to reduce the chance of sudden cardiac arrest by not smoking, not drinking excessive alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight and keeping annual doctor's visits and screenings.
Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with cardiologists who explained what to know about sudden cardiac arrest and why every second counts during the medical emergency. As always, please consult your physician for medical advice.
Dr. Eli Friedman, medical director of sports cardiology at Baptist Health Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute says, "Sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time.
It is the process in which the heart either goes into a dangerous heart rhythm (ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation) or stops completely and is a medical emergency.
Prompt intervention with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED) within 3 minutes is critical for survival.
Sudden cardiac arrest is a malfunction of the electrical system of the heart. There can be several causes such as a heart attack (blood flow is blocked to the heart), scar tissue, cardiomyopathy (an enlarged or thickened heart), significant changes in your body's electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium, and Commotio Cordis (from a blow to the chest wall at a specific angle and timing of the cardiac cycle).