How sudden cardiac arrest kills faster

Gilbert Ekezie

Cardiac death is a sudden and unexpected death caused by a change in heart rhythm otherwise called cardiac arrest. It is the largest cause of natural adult deaths in all parts of the world each year. And, it is responsible for half of all heart disease deaths.

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Many misconstrue sudden cardiac arrest to heart attack rather it can occur during a heart attack. Heart attacks occur when there is a blockage in one or more of the arteries to the heart, preventing the heart from receiving enough oxygen-rich blood. And, if the oxygen in the blood cannot reach the heart muscle, then, the heart becomes damaged. It can also occur when there is an underlined heart disease. Both cardiac arrest and heart attack is virtually the same thing. While in cardiac arrest, the heart must stop to work. But in heart attack, the will continue to work. Moreover, heart attack may lead to cardiac arrest.

Causes of Sudden Cardiac arrests

Most sudden cardiac arrests occur when the electrical system to the heart malfunctions and suddenly becomes very irregular, resulting in the heart beating dangerously faster. As a result, the ventricles may flutter or quiver, and blood is not delivered to the body. In the first few minutes of the condition, the greatest concern is that blood flow to the brain will be reduced so drastically that a person will lose consciousness. Thereafter, death follows, unless emergency treatment is given. The most common cause of cardiac arrest among athletes is severe coronary artery disease. The most common symptoms are left-side chest pain, shortness of breath and flu-like symptoms. Among the causes of cardiac arrest especially in athletic participants include history of heart disease, coronary artery disease, history of arterial fibrillation, history of high blood pressure, history of smoking and high cholesterol. A study has it that many of those arrested during athletic activities had symptoms one week before the incident. Most of the time in this environment, the common cause of cardiac arrest is when there is hypertension and diabetes. There are also other causes like coronary arteries, coronary hypertension, and coronary oblivion.

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Symptoms of sudden Cardiac arrest

The most commonly reported symptoms of cardiac arrest are chest pain (46 percent), abdominal or other complaints (20 percent), difficulty breathing (18 percent), ongoing flu-like symptoms (10 percent), temporary loss of consciousness or heart palpitations (5 per cent). Some people may experience symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest, such as a racing heartbeat or feeling dizzy, alerting them that a potentially dangerous heart rhythm problem has started. In many cases, sudden cardiac arrest occurs without prior symptoms.

Risk of sudden Cardiac death between ages 35 and 65

Obviously, more heart events occur in athletes during middle age, but the events and how to reduce their risks are not well known. Fortunately, study by a team of renowned cardiac arrest investigators improved the understanding of cardiac death in middle-aged sports participants.

Prevention of Cardiac Arrest

Medical Director of City of Hope Medical Centre, Apapa Lagos, Dr Rauf Olaniyi Sanni stated that anyone above 35 needs to check for heart disease risks. “Though they are often deemed to be healthier, but this does not mean they do not need an annual doctor’s visit and a thorough assessment of heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol which can also occur in the most fit people.”

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He explained that it is a common thought that heart arrests are unexpected, but they are not. “This might be expected when there is a history of heart problems. Most of the arrest victims had risk factors for heart disease, and symptoms that developed before the arrest suggested the possibility of advanced disease.”

According to Sanni, activity and athletics are very good for body. People who exercise are many times less likely to develop heart disease or experience cardiac arrest. Even in this study, people participating in athletics were less likely to suffer from cardiac arrest than those middle-aged people who were not participating. Even in the setting of heart disease, carefully monitored and prescribed exercise significantly reduces risk of death and positively affects heart disease progression. In a prior column, I address this very issue of exercise for those with heart disease.

Finally, athletes may be the last to realize they have heart disease or recognize their symptoms. Encourage those you know to get help if they have heart disease risk factors, to stay compliant with physician-directed treatments, and to take a break from exercise if new heart symptoms develop.

Sanni also stated that prevention is a key to cardiac arrest because most times, it leads to death. “It is better to prevent and treat cardiac arrest. And to do that, it is advisable for those above 40 to have a regular annual medical checkup. That would give them the profile of their health. Also blood pressure should be monitored on regular basis. In fact, prevention is the basis of good health.”

Sanni further noted that people should watch the kind of food they eat as that could trigger cardiac arrest. “We should avoid foods that have fat and high cholesterol. For those that have diabetes in their family history, they should avoid sugar. Fish is also good, but not catfish because they are mammals. Low red meat consumption is also advisable.”

He explained that cardiac arrest is becoming an epidemic in Nigeria because Nigerians have refused to eat the normal natural foods. Cardiologists also say that smoking cessation intervention, screening for family history of sudden cardiac death, screening those with a strong family history of cardiomyopathy and sudden cardiac death for asymptomatic left ventricular dysfunction, a type of heart failure that makes breathing difficult.

Emergency treatment

Resuscitation of cardiac arrest victims poses a serious challenge and most people die. Emergency treatment needed for a victim of cardiac arrest includes cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), a manual technique using repetitive pressing to the chest and breathing into the person’s airways that keeps enough oxygen and blood flowing to the brain, until the normal heart rhythm is restored with an electric shock to the chest.

The procedure is also called defibrillation. Emergency squads use portable defibrillators and frequently there are public access defibrillators and automated external defibrillators in public locations that are intended to be available for use by citizens who observe cardiac arrest. Mouth to mouth breathing is also necessary.