Cardiac Arrest- Know its Causes & Symptoms
Cardiac arrest is the abrupt stopping of heart activity due to electrical malfunction in the heart resulting in blocking oxygen supply to the body. This interruption in the blood flow to the brain and other parts of the body can lead to a person becoming unconscious. The situation can be quite dangerous and can lead to a person’s death if immediate action is not taken.
People often confuse cardiac arrest with a heart-attack but the two are different though interlinked. A person who had a heart attack and is in recovery phase may have episodes of cardiac arrest.
Symptoms of Cardiac Arrest
Cardiac arrest may or may not have symptoms before it occurs. If you do have symptoms that persist, seek immediate and proper medical care. The common symptoms of cardiac arrest are-
- Loss of Consciousness
- Shortness of breath
- Extreme fatigue or weakness
- Experiencing heart palpitations
Immediate emergency attention is needed if a person experiences the following symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Absence of pulse
- Not breathing or difficulty in breathing
- Loss of consciousness
Causes of Cardiac Arrest
The main cause of Cardiac arrest is a dangerous abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) such as Ventricular fibrillation (VF), an example of a dangerous abnormal rhythm of heart that can lead to a cardiac arrest. In Ventricular fibrillation, the heart trembles & only beats abnormally fast instead of pumping blood as normal. Common arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation aren’t life-threatening, though they also cause an irregular, fast heart rhythm.
Cardiomyopathy, a condition related to the heart muscles which reduces the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively. Apart from cardiomyopathy, certain inherited heart conditions which mess with the electrical system of the heart, such as Brugada syndrome may also lead to cardiac arrest.
Congenital Heart Disease-
Congenital heart disease is described as a heart defect which is acquired before birth that affects the functioning of the heart.
Heart valve disease-
Our heart has 4 valves that open and close to transport blood to the organs. Heart valve disease is a heart condition when one or more heart valves don’t work properly resulting in hampering the process of blood transportation.
Some other causes of cardiac arrest are:
- Heart attack.
- Heart enlargement due to high blood pressure or advanced heart disease.
- Heart infections can also cause changes to the heart’s structure which may lead to cardiac arrest.
- Extreme physical activity or blood loss.
- Hypoxia - a severe drop in oxygen levels.
- Drug overdose.
Risk Factors of Cardiac Arrest
People are more prone to have a cardiac arrest in the following cases-
- If a person has Coronary Artery Disease (CAD).
- The chances of a cardiac arrest increases with age.
- Cardiac arrest occurs more often in men than in women.
- Black or African American natives, especially if a person has pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart failure, or chronic kidney disease.
- Personal history of irregular heartbeats(arrhythmia).
- People who are prone to drug or alcohol use.
- Those who had a heart attack or a heart failure.
Treatment Methods for Cardiac Arrest
In case of a cardiac arrest the very first measure should be taken to restore the heart beat. To restore heartbeat following can be done-
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
Immediate CPR is one of the most important treatment methods to improve the chances of survival in cardiac arrest. It is often performed until an automatic or external defibrillator is ready. In CPR, chest compressions are used to replace the pumping action of the heart. It helps to move small amounts of blood from the heart to the brain.
Automatic defibrillator or external defibrillator
Once connected, an Automatic defibrillator delivers a brief electrical current to the chest which travels to the heart. This helps to stop the abnormal impulses, thereby restoring the normal impulses that make it beat. It may take multiple shocks for the heart to pump normally again.
Lifestyle Changes to prevent Cardiac Arrest
- Avoid Smoking & use of tobacco
- Walk for at least 30- 60 minutes daily
- Include food items such as whole grains, healthy fats, such as olive oil, vegetables and fruits, lean meats and fish, low-fat or fat-free dairy foods.
- Limit intake of salt, sugar, processed carbohydrates, saturated fat and trans fat
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Get good quality sleep
- Manage stress with healthy ways of living such as physical activity, and meditation.
- Get regular check-ups for monitoring blood pressure, cholesterol, & diabetes.
When to see a doctor?
Seek emergency medical care for the following symptoms-
- Pain or discomfort in the chest.
- Pounding heartbeat.
- Rapid or irregular heartbeats.
- Unexplained wheezing.
- Fainting or near fainting.
- Lightheadedness or dizziness.