National Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month: What You Should Know

Learning CPR can be vital in an instance of sudden cardiac arrest.

October marks the beginning of National Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month. This is an opportunity to raise awareness of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) and its warning signs. Sudden cardiac arrest can strike anytime, anywhere—and can be fatal if immediate medical attention is not provided. 

In light of this, it’s essential to know what sudden cardiac arrest is, who’s at risk, its symptoms, and how it can be prevented. Cardiovascular Institute of the South is dedicated to helping patients understand their risks and prevent health emergencies. Educating yourself on this condition and how to handle it could save someone’s life.

What Is Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions and the heart suddenly stops beating. This can develop from an underlying heart condition or a potential infection caused by physical trauma. This irregular rhythm, known as ventricular fibrillation, disrupts the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively, leading to loss of consciousness. When the heart stops beating, blood circulation ceases, leading to oxygen deprivation in the brain and other vital organs. If left untreated, sudden cardiac arrest can be fatal within minutes.

Who Is at Risk of Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

Sudden cardiac arrest is more common than most people think. It is estimated that about 356,000 cases occur outside of a hospital setting each year in the United States. Shockingly, only about 10% of people survive these SCA events. However, immediate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and early defibrillation treatment can significantly improve survival rates.

While men and older individuals are at higher risk for sudden cardiac arrest, this health emergency can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or fitness level. However, certain underlying health conditions and lifestyle factors can increase one’s risk of experiencing SCA. These include:

  • Personal or family history of heart disease
  • Previous heart conditions such as heart attacks or arrhythmia
  • Genetic conditions like high blood pressure or cholesterol
  • Lifestyle habits such as smoking, inactivity, substance abuse, and poor eating habits

How to Prevent SCA

Preventing sudden cardiac arrest involves maintaining a healthy lifestyle and managing underlying heart conditions. Exercise, a balanced diet, avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol, and managing stress contribute to heart health. If you have a known health condition, you should follow the treatment plan and medications given by your doctor.

Learning CPR is a great way to help protect family and friends in the case of an emergency. Many public spaces have automated external defibrillators (AEDs), which, when used, greatly increase the chances of survival as well. Last but not least, regular check-ups with a cardiologist help to monitor heart health and address concerns promptly.

Differentiating Sudden Cardiac Arrest from Heart Attack

Sudden cardiac arrest is often confused with heart attacks, but there are distinct differences in these conditions, their causes, and symptoms. SCA is primarily an electrical issue affecting the heart’s rhythm, whereas a heart attack is caused by blocked arteries. However, heart attacks can increase your risk of experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. Some symptoms of a heart attack can also be similar to sudden cardiac arrest. But, unlike SCA, the heart often remains beating during a heart attack.

Symptoms of Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Sudden cardiac arrest can occur without any prior warning signs. A victim of SCA may lose consciousness, stop breathing, and have no pulse. However, some people may experience the following symptoms before the event:

  • Irregular gasping accompanied by seizure-like movements
  • Chest pain 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness 
  • Fatigue 
  • Palpitations (irregular heartbeat)

Fast Action Can Save Lives

As we prepare for National Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month, remember that awareness and education are powerful tools that can help save lives. In the event of sudden cardiac arrest, quick action is vital. If you witness someone collapsing and suspect they might be experiencing SCA, follow these emergency steps:

  • Call 911: Immediately call emergency services to ensure professional help is on the way.
  • Perform CPR: If you are trained in CPR, begin chest compressions. It’s a vital step to keep oxygenated blood flowing to the brain and other organs. CPR can also triple one’s chance of survival.
  • Use an AED: An automated external defibrillator is necessary to restart the heart. This delivers an electric shock to restore the heart’s normal rhythm.

Visit Cardiovascular Institute of the South During National Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month

National Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month serves as a call to action. By understanding the symptoms, risk factors, and actions to take in the event of sudden cardiac arrest, we can all do our part in improving survival rates and ensuring the well-being of our communities. Don’t hesitate to take the initial step towards a healthier heart by reaching out to Cardiovascular Institute of the South today.

If you have a history of heart disease or feel that you may be at risk, it’s important to seek medical attention. With cutting-edge cardiovascular care, Cardiovascular Institute of the South is committed to making advanced treatments accessible to communities across Louisiana and Mississippi. Whether you’re scheduling a check-up or seeking advice, taking the initiative to prioritize your heart health can be a life-changing decision. Request an appointment online or contact your nearest location for expert guidance on your heart health journey. Your heart matters, and so does your awareness.

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CIS Staff

Written by CIS Staff