Cardiac Arrest is a sudden loss of heart function, breathing, and consciousness. This condition occurs because the heart which generates and pumps blood in the body is disturbed and stops functioning leading to no flow of blood in the body particularly the brain and resulting in death. Cardiac arrest is abrupt, sudden, and different than a heart attack where the blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked; though a heart attack may lead to a cardiac arrest in some cases.
A cardiac arrest is a very critical situation where the heart – that makes blood (in its upper chamber or atrium) and pumps blood to all other organs of the body through the heart valves – crashes and seizes to function. This sudden failure of the system leads to loss of heartbeat, no flow of blood in the body, loss of organ functions, and ultimately death. The bottom chambers of the heart (ventricles) stop beating and start behaving like mere thick gooey masses leading to no production of heart beat or supply of oxygen and blood into the body. This abrupt crash of the system if not resurrected timely can lead to immediate death. As per records, 95% of people who suffer from a cardiac arrest succumb to death. According to research, each year in India, 10% of deaths happen because of cardiac arrest, which is also the most common cause of death in the world.
While a cardiac arrest is sudden and occurs without any prior symptoms or warning leaving a slim chance of detection, yet proper knowledge and awareness about cardiac attack symptoms is useful to get immediate medical help. Some of the general cardiac attack symptoms that people might experience are:
- Abruptly racing heartbeat
- Extreme anxiety
- Dangerous heart rhythm
- Fluttering ventricles
- Frozen body temperature and numbness
- Sudden collapse
- Painful and difficult breathing
- Loss of pulse
Most of these symptoms occur very near to a cardiac arrest, whereas there are a couple of cardiac arrest symptoms that if paid heed to could signal the upcoming dysfunctionality. These might include:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Shortness of breath
However, you can always seek advance medical help to know if there are any irregularities in heart functioning. You should see a doctor if you experience any of these:
- Cheat pain or discomfort
- Rapid or irregular heartbeats
- Continuous unexplained wheezing
- Shortness of breath
- Extreme heart palpitations
- Loss of consciousness
- Dizziness and blurriness of sight
Most cardiac arrest symptoms are short timed and do not leave much time to act before the arrest. Hence, the best way to save life is to avoid all cardiac arrest causes and stay clear of reasons and factors that can possibly trigger a cardiac arrest.
The most common cause of a cardiac arrest is the irregularity of heart rhythm (arrhythmia) which occurs because of a default in the heart’s electrical system – its functioning. The disruption in functioning stops blood and oxygen flow, and disturbs the pace of heart beat. Sometimes, this disruption might be brief and hence, the functioning would recover in seconds whereas when the heart beat rhythm is disturbed in the lower chamber of the heart (ventricle), it leads to fast, erratic electrical impulses causing ventricles to tremble instead of beating and pumping blood. This is the most common form of cardiac arrest known as arrhythmia. What causes this could be factors such as depleting heart conditions, risk factors, and multiple others, some of which are:
- Coronary heart disease
- Previous heart attack history
- Enlarged heart
- Valvular heart disease
- Congenital heart disease
- Heart rhythm abnormalities
- Ventricular tachycardia
- History of syncope
- Family history of heart problems or cardiac arrest
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol
- Lack of physical exercise
- Drug abuse
- Acute lack of potassium and magnesium
- Fatal kidney diseases
While symptoms and causes of a cardiac arrest are vital to know, it is also important to understand that immediate medical help and treatment is the only way for survival. One needs to be prompt and have immense presence of mind to ensure that the right and quick approach is adopted. Immediate emergency help can help revive a person if treatment is initiated within first minutes of an arrest. However, every minute lost reduces the chance of survival by 10%.
If you experience or witness a cardiac arrest, call the ambulance or doctor immediately. Meanwhile, initiate CPR – Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation, without delay. CPR includes chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing support that helps restore blood circulation. One should carry on CPR until help arrives to increase chances of survival after a cardiac arrest.
That said, there is no better way to avoid a cardiac arrest than to maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes healthy eating, proper weight, balanced nutrition, no smoking or drugs, regular heath check-ups, and regular physical exercise.