What is cardiac arrest?
A cardiac arrest is a phenomenon which stems from the heart’s electrical system, resulting in disruption of the pumping of blood and ultimately, stopping blood flow in the body. This results in the sudden loss of heart functions, difficulty in breathing or at times, even loss of consciousness.
Even though cardiac arrests are not exactly the same as heart attacks, the reaction in the electrical system caused by a heart attack in many cases does lead to severe cardiac arrests increasing the chances of fatality. Cardiac arrests require immediate and proper medical assistance to ensure patient survival.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is the commonly used method to treat cardiac arrests. In hospitals, professionals make use of a device called a defibrillator to carry it out. CPR can also be given by simply giving compressions to the chest which can improve the chances of survival until professional help arrives.
What can cause cardiac arrest?
Cardiac arrests are usually caused by arrhythmia or in simple terms, an abnormal heart rhythm. This happens when the heart’s electrical system, which controls the rate and rhythm of the heartbeat, isn’t working in the correct manner. In certain situations, the heartbeats can become irregular, too slow or even too fast. Usually, these are brief and harmless, but if prolonged, can lead to cardiac arrest. The most common heart rhythm which leads to cardiac arrest is an arrhythmia in the ventricle, the lower chamber of the heart.
Some symptoms that commonly occur right before a sudden cardiac arrest include chest discomfort, shortness of breath, dizziness, fatigue, weakness in muscles and palpitations, which means a fast beating or pounding heart. Other more serious symptoms include sudden collapse, no breathing or in worse-case scenarios no pulse.
Factors which can increase the risk of cardiac arrest
Sudden cardiac arrests are commonly linked with coronary artery disease. Hence, factors which increase the chances of coronary artery diseases such as genetics, smoking, diabetes, obesity or high blood pressure or cholesterol can also increase the chances and the risk of sudden cardiac arrests.
Other than the above-mentioned, factors that can increase the risk of sudden cardiac arrest include a previous cardiac arrest or a heart attack, a personal or family history of other forms of heart disease, age can also be a major factor as it is more likely to happen in older adults, usage of illegal drugs, low potassium or magnesium levels, obstructive sleep apnea or even chronic kidney disease.
Other heart conditions which can lead to sudden cardiac arrests include:-
- Cardiomyopathy (Enlarged heart) occurs primarily when the heart’s muscular walls enlarge or thicken, a condition often leading to arrhythmias.
- Valvular heart disease refers to, the leaking or narrowing of heart valves which can lead to the thickening of your heart muscle. This results in the chambers becoming enlarged or weakened because of the stress caused by the tight or leaking valve which, in turn, increases the risk of developing arrhythmia.
- Congenital heart disease (Heart defect present at birth) can cause sudden cardiac arrests in children. Even after having corrective surgery in adulthood, there is still a high chance of sudden cardiac arrest.
How to treat it?
The first and obvious step is to call for professional help or attempt to transport the patient to the nearest hospital.
Then check the person’s breath to see whether CPR is required or not. If the person isn’t breathing then one may perform CPR by pushing the chest to perform compressions. This should be performed till professional help arrives.
If a portable defibrillator is available, then using it one can check the patient’s heartbeat. If a shock is recommended, deliver it to the patient’s chest and then resume CPR. Then upon checking the heartbeat again, deliver the shock if needed again and repeat this cycle until professional help arrives or consciousness is regained.