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 heartbeat 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 are 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:
- Chest 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 a life is to avoid all cardiac arrest causes and stay clear of reasons and factors that can trigger a cardiac arrest.
Causes of Cardiac Arrest
Sudden cardiac arrests occur without a warning and hence, it is very crucial to know why cardiac arrests happen to avoid/remove those causes and be prepared for the worst circumstances. Some of the major reasons for cardiac arrests that one must know are:
Heart Conditions that can lead to a Cardiac Arrest
Coronary Artery Disease: One of the most common cardiac arrest causes is a coronary artery disease in which the coronary arteries of the heart are narrowed or clogged. These arteries can be clogged due to building up of cholesterol and fatty items called plaques. This plaque tends to stick to the inner walls of the arteries, restricting the blood flow and thereby causing a system malfunction.
Heart Attack: A heart attack is different from a cardiac arrest but could lead to one in severe cases. A heart is most likely a result of severe coronary artery disease and can lead to ventricular fibrillation causing sudden cardiac arrest. A heart attack also leaves a scar tissue; any disturbance around the scar tissue can cause abnormalities in the functioning and beating of the heart.
Cardiomyopathy or an Enlarged Heart: An enlarged heart is another cause of cardiac arrest as it indicates weakened heart muscles, coronary heart disease, or a valve problem. This is caused when the muscles of the heart are overly stretched, enlarged and thickened, limiting the flow of flood from the heart to the body.
Congenital Heart Disease: Congenital heart disease such as Brugada syndrome (BrS) and long-QT Syndrome (LQTS) are disordersof the heart that cause abnormal heartbeats and rhythms. These defects are present at birth and lead to severe complications for adolescents and children. Patients who have undergone surgery to correct the congenital heart disease are also at high risk of cardiac arrest.
Valvular Heart Problem: A valvular heart problem is characterized by damage or defect in any of the four heart valves. This problem does not let the valves function normally because of leakage or narrowing of the valve, causing the heart muscles to stretch and thicken restricting the blood flow. This stress caused by the valves leads to enlarged or weakened chambers, resulting in the irregularity of heartbeat and rhythm.
Often, a person may not be suffering from any of these heart problems but could still have higher chances of a cardiac arrest because of the following risk factors. These factors listed below contribute towards the conditions of a cardiac arrest:
- Age – Men above 45 and women beyond 55
- A history of heart attacks
- A family history of heart problems or cardiac arrest
- High blood pressure
- Excessive Smoking
- Uncontrolled consumption of alcohol
- High blood cholesterol
- Overweight and Obesity
- Lack of physical activity
- Abuse of drugs
- Acute lack of potassium and magnesium
- Fatal kidney diseases
While 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%.