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Sudden cardiac arrest: Bang your dead

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Sudden cardiac arrest happens when all of a sudden your heart stops beating, your blood no longer circulates to the brain and other organs, you stop breathing, you have no pulse, and it happens so suddenly you were caught without time to do anything about it.

What causes cardiac arrest?

The main culprit is an irregular heart rhythm. When the electrical impulses of the heart are so erratic it cannot pump blood normally sudden cardiac arrest can ensue.

Medical conditions which can cause cardiac arrest

Coronary artery disease. This disease is also known as heart disease and is the number one killer in America. It happens when the arteries to the heart are blocked by plaque. It usually occurs in people over 35 in relation to a sudden cardiac arrest.

Cardiomyopathy - Your heart muscles weaken because they become too large or too thick.

Brugada syndrome and Long QT syndrome produce abnormal rhythms of the heart.

Marfan syndrome - This is a genetic disorder which can cause parts of the heart to become bigger by stretching and thus weakening the heart.

Any birth defects concerning the heart structure. Unfortunately, even if the condition has been corrected a cardiac arrest can still occur.

Men are at a higher risk for sudden cardiac arrest after the age of 45 and women after the age of 55.

A family history of cardiac arrest or heart attack or if you already had one yourself puts you at a risk for another cardiac arrest.

What action to take if you are having a sudden cardiac arrest

It doesn’t necessarily mean that you will instantly die from a sudden cardiac arrest but you must act quickly. “CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) needs to begin immediately, and treatment with an automated external defibrillator (AED) within a few minutes. “Every second counts,” says Gregg Fonarow, MD, cardiology professor at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine.”

When it is time to call 911

when you have unexplained shortness of breath

chest pain

or discomfort in either or both arms

I someone you know is having a cardiac arrest, stay calm, call 911, and see if the person can respond to you. If the person is no longer breathing start CPR immediately. This should also be done if the person is also unconscious. The CPR will get the blood circulating to the heart and vital organs and once the person begins to breath you can stop. The emergency unit will take over from there once they arrive.

An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a device that sends an electrical shock to the heart. If you are near a public place such as a mall, airport, or school they may have one. The shock delivered by these machines can get the heart rhythm normal again.

What to do when you are at risk for a sudden cardiac arrest.

Talk to your doctor that is always the first step in prevention. The doctor will have vital treatments and information for you. There are medications, surgery, and other treatments that can help prevent a sudden cardiac arrest.

You should have someone in your household learn CPR and have a AED in the home as well.

A device called an implantable cardio-deflibrillator (ICD) is a lifesaver for some people. The device is put under the skin and monitors the heart rhythm, if the rhythm becomes erratic it will send an electrical shock to restore the normal heart rhythm.

The scary part is that sometimes sudden cardiac arrest will happen in people who never had any symptoms. However, after the sudden cardiac arrest, some people who survived realized they did have the symptoms but ignored them.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Athletes

Sometimes we hear of athletes who died from a sudden cardiac arrest. Usually this is because there was an undiagnosed heart condition such as cardiomyopathy that was the underlying cause.

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