Sudden Cardiac Arrest

What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

When individuals have sudden cardiac arrest, their heart has immediately stopped beating without any warning. When this life-threatening condition occurs, it causes the blood to cease from traveling to the vital organs of the body, including the brain.

This very serious condition is often fatal unless medical treatment is received right away. The most common cause of sudden cardiac arrest is when the ventricles of the lower section of the heart start beating abnormally. Other causes of this condition include coronary heart disease, an enlarged heart and excessive physical activity that places too much stress on the heart.

What are the Symptoms of a Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

Right before sudden cardiac arrest, individuals may feel their heart beating very fast and they often experience dizziness and lightheadedness. Symptoms that can occur up to an hour before the episode include an upset stomach, vomiting, feeling short of breath and pains in the chest area.

Symptoms and signs that can alert others that a person is having sudden cardiac arrest include seeing the individual collapse or fall to the ground, the absence of a pulse, the inability to get a response and determining that the individual is not breathing.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest Causes

Sudden cardiac arrest has many causes – there are multiple conditions can lead to this serious outcome. Trauma is a well known cause of sudden cardiac arrest, with blunt trauma to the chest being implicated the most often. The injury causes the heart to stop all mechanical activity.

Drugs are also another major source of sudden cardiac arrest, with stimulants having the strongest association. This is evidenced by the excessive dopamine and serotonin levels commonly found in many people who suffer from sudden cardiac arrest.

Although depressants are less likely to cause sudden cardiac arrest, when combined with a stimulant, such as in the infamous “speedball” mixture of cocaine and heroin, they can cause dopamine to build up in the individual without them being aware.

Less commonly, sudden cardiac arrest is caused by viral and bacterial infections of the heart and other organs. In such causes the sudden cardiac arrest is deemed to be septic in nature.

How is a Sudden Cardiac Arrest Treated?

After sudden cardiac arrest, treatment must begin within four to six minutes or the individual can sustain life-long damage to the brain, if they even survive. Emergency medical staff will immediately use a defibrillator, which sends an electric current to an individual’s heart, to try and get the heart beating again.

Once the individual is at the hospital, doctors will perform various tests, such as an electrocardiogram, cardiac catheterization and an echocardiogram, to discover the cause of the sudden cardiac arrest. Many individuals undergo surgery to have a cardiac defibrillator implanted in their chest to monitor the rhythm of the heart and to send an electrical impulse to the heart if it begins to beat abnormally.

Sudden cardiac arrest Prevention

Sudden cardiac arrest is a highly preventable disease. The easiest way to prevent sudden cardiac arrest is to focus on helping people change their lifestyles to include healthier diets and more exercise. These steps alone will do wonders to prevent the development of sudden cardiac arrest because they lead to better cardiovascular health.

Other important steps to take when preventing sudden cardiac arrest are in diagnosing heart disease before it occurs in order to make sure people are getting the care they need. There are many conditions, such as hypertension, which if left untreated can indeed lead to sudden cardiac arrest.

Other additional preventive steps can be taken to avoid suffering from indirect causes of sudden cardiac arrest. Poor oral care, for example, is linked to heart disease. There is a chance that oral bacteria can travel to other parts of the body and may aggravate or serve as a source of sudden cardiac arrest, so it is important to maintain good oral hygiene in order to prevent this from happening.