Contributed by: Nancy Dixit
Our heart is one of the toughest organs of our body. Its main function is to pump oxygenated blood throughout the body. A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops functioning unexpectedly.
Did you know 9 out of 10 people who have a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital die — often within minutes?
In this article, we will discuss the sudden cardiac arrest, its warning signs, causes and treatment.
What is cardiac arrest?
Cardiac arrest is also known as sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). It is a condition when the heart stops beating suddenly caused by an electrical disturbance in the heart due to which the pumping action is disrupted, hindering the flow of blood to the body.
It can cause a person to lose consciousness, become disabled or die if not treated immediately.
Note: Many cardiac disorders can be inherited including arrhythmias, congenital heart disease, cardiac arrest, high blood cholesterol etc.
In such a situation, you can carry out genetic testing to determine if you have specific genes that can put you at more risk of developing heart diseases
Cardiac arrest is a medical emergency.
If a loved one experiences symptoms of cardiac arrest such as chest pains, dizziness, shortness of breath or sudden numbness, can an ambulance immediately.
Every minute matters!
Do you know about 10% of the deaths in India are due to sudden cardiac arrest which is also the most common factor of death in the world?
Warning signs of cardiac arrest
Signs of sudden cardiac arrest are immediate and can be life-threatening which may include:
- Sudden collapse
- Unexplained wheezing
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations (fast or pounding heartbeat)
- Loss of consciousness
What causes a cardiac arrest?
Cardiac arrest can be caused by a variety of heart conditions. A few main causes of cardiac arrest include:
Arrhythmia and ventricular fibrillation
An arrhythmia occurs when electrical signals in the heart are the problem leading to an abnormal heartbeat.
The most common life-threatening arrhythmia is ventricular fibrillation. It is a rapid heartbeat in the heart’s ventricle, which causes the heart to tremble instead of normally pumping blood.
When this happens, your heart is unable to pump blood. Without treatment, you can die within minutes.
Enlarged heart (cardiomyopathy)
An unhealthy heart muscle may make you more prone to sudden cardiac arrest, especially if you also have heart failure.
Damage to your heart muscle can be the cause of heart valve disease, high blood pressure, or other heart disorders.
Coronary artery disease (CAD)
This type of heart disease arises when the coronary arteries are narrowed and thickened by blockages of plaque, which restricts the flow of blood to the heart.
If left untreated, coronary artery disease can lead to heart failure or arrhythmias, which both can lead to cardiac arrest.
Certain electrical abnormalities such as Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome and Long QT syndrome may cause sudden cardiac arrest in children and young people.
Recreational drug use
Recreational drugs are chemical substances taken for enjoyment, or leisure purposes, rather than for medical reasons by modifying the perceptions, feelings, and emotions of the user.
The use of some recreational drugs may also cause sudden cardiac arrest, even in otherwise healthy people.
Other causes of cardiac arrest may include blood loss, valvular heart disease, lack of oxygen, and high levels of potassium and magnesium (which can cause arrhythmia).
Who are at risk for cardiac arrest?
Several lifestyle and hereditary factors may increase the risk of cardiac arrest. They include the following:
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Family history of heart disease or cardiac arrest
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
However, some people may also experience cardiac arrest with no risk factors at all.
Did you know cardiac arrest is more common in older men than women?
What are the treatment options available?
Treatment options include immediate treatment and long-term treatment.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a process of mouth-to-mouth breathing with chest compressions to create cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It is needed for treating sudden cardiac arrest immediately.
A defibrillator is a medical device to deliver a controlled electric shock to the heart to help it regain function and beat normally.
The doctor might prescribe some antiarrhythmic medicines for long-term treatment of arrhythmias such as beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors etc.
Maze procedure, coronary angioplasty, bypass surgery, or corrective heart surgery may also be performed to repair and remove any blockages in the heart.
Lifestyle changes after a cardiac arrest
Opting for a healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to treat or prevent heart diseases, such as:
- Quit smoking and limit alcohol consumption
- Try to reduce stress
- Have a heart-healthy diet
- Physical activeness
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Try to get a sound sleep
- Get regular health check-ups
Cardiac arrest is a severe medical condition. However, by proper medication and adopting a healthy lifestyle, it can be managed. Consult a doctor from time to time to avoid any complications and manage other health conditions effectively.
Additionally, a genetic variation (mutation) in a single gene can affect the likelihood of developing heart disease.
Sometimes, parents can inherit anxiety in their children’s genes.
In order to determine how vulnerable you might be to acquiring a hereditary heart disorder, DNA testing or genetic testing is the best option.
Genetic testing is a cutting-edge predictive health tool to ascertain your predisposition toward any kind of medical condition.
To minimize the risks of cardiac illnesses and complications, you should also opt for regular preventive heart checkups.
These health checks can provide you with a comprehensive insight into your heart’s health, allowing you to take necessary precautions to keep your heart healthy.