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Sudden Cardiac Arrest — A Different Monster From a Heart Attack

Jun 14 2019

A Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is not the same as a heart attack. Though both deal with the cardiovascular system, this is a different ball game. Though people use the terms interchangeably, it’s important to note that they are not the same. To go through it simply, a heart attack is when blood flow to the heart is blocked. With SCA, the heart unexpectedly stops beating. It’s a malfunction of the heart. And, when it’s not treated within minutes, can be fatal.

What causes a Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

This is extremely sudden, hence the name. So, what exactly happens inside your body to cause a SCA? The most popular cause is an abnormal heart rhythm. Our bodies are incredible. The heart itself has an electrical system that controls its heartbeat. When the heart’s electrical activity becomes chaotic, it can no longer pump blood to the rest of the body. Sometimes, SCA happens because of certain conditions that a person already has. If a person has coronary heart disease or coronary artery disease, the risk of SCA increases.

How can you screen or prevent SCA?

This differs with every person, especially if you’re already had SCA. Most research, however, states that with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), you can reduce your chances of dying from a second SCA. When the device detects a dangerous heart rhythm, it sends an electric shock and restores is back to normal.

Following a heart-healthy diet and managing stress are listed as ways to prevent SCA if you have no previous history of heart diseases or conditions. Of course, keeping active and not smoking are also key factors for overall health.

How is SCA diagnosed?

It’s sometimes hard to declare or give something a name as it’s happening. This is the case with SCA. According to Mayo Clinic, your doctor will likely perform an ECG (electrocardiogram) to detect the electrical activity of your heart. This can find anything that looks “off” in your heart rhythm. You may also have blood tests done to check your levels of potassium, magnesium, and hormones. What is amazing about this is that it can detect any recent injury to your heart.

Is there an immediate treatment?

Yes. In fact, for survival, Sudden Cardiac Arrest requires immediate action. First, CPR should be used. Having oxygen is crucial. CPR can be important until an ambulance arrives. If an automated external defibrillator is available, use that. Push down on the person’s chest, allowing the chest to rise and fall before applying again. Again, this is an immediate option before emergency care arrives.

Advanced care for SCA will include several things. Defibrillators are often used by the medical team to get your heart back to normal. Since it’s hard to tell if you’re having a heart attack or SCA, doctors will often treat the patient for both. Afterward, the patient will be provided with medication to stabilize the heart’s rhythm. The long-term treatment for this will be determined by the doctor and comes in different forms.