Cardiac arrest happens when there is sudden loss of heart function, leading to loss of breathing and ultimately consciousness. A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart – the most vital organ – that generates the pump to flow to the other organs of the body, especially the brain, is disturbed. As a result, it cannot function properly due to some causes, leading to stop of blood flow to the brain and death.
The heart makes blood in its upper chamber called the atrium and then pumps the blood to all other organs of the body through the heart valves. When an electric malfunctioning in the heart causes this pumping action to be hampered; 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 unexpected crash of the system, if not resurrected with attentive and proper medical care, may result in death.
As per research, in India, 10% of deaths happen due to cardiac arrest, which is also the most common cause of death in the world. It is important to note here that cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack. In a heart attack, blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked leading to severe pain. However, a heart attack may intensify and cause a cardiac arrest.
Cardiac arrest is a sudden and an extremely critical situation and needs to be detected and treated immediately to avoid severe complications that can also cause death. Sudden cardiac arrests occur without a warning and hence, it is very crucial to know why cardiac arrests happen so as to avoid/remove those causes and be prepared for the worst circumstances. Some of the major reasons of 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 build 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 a surgery to correct the congenital heart disease are also at high risk of cardiac arrest.
Valvular Hear 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 irregularity of heart beat and rhythm.
Often times, 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
That said, you also need to identify the symptoms of a cardiac arrest to detect it as soon as possible and call for medical help. Symptoms of a cardiac arrest include extreme anxiety, dizziness, acute chest pain, thumping heart rhythm, fluttering ventricles, sudden collapse, loss of pulse, shortness of breath, fatigue, palpitations, and more. Symptoms are subjective to a person’s condition and hence, may vary.
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. Every minute lost reduces the chance of survival by 10%. Immediate emergency help can help revive a person if treatment is initiated within minutes of an arrest.