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If someone has a heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest, there may only be a few minutes to act before it’s too late. Immediate recognition and treatment of a heart emergency can dramatically improve the chances of survival and recovery for victims. The term “heart attack” is often used to describe sudden cardiac arrest, but sudden cardiac arrest and a heart attack is not the same thing. A heart attack may cause sudden cardiac arrest, however.
Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops pumping blood around the body. A victim with sudden cardiac arrest loses consciousness almost immediately and there are no signs of life, such as movement or breathing.
The heart is an electrical pump with pacemaker cells in the upper chamber generating electricity. In sudden cardiac arrest, electrical impulses to the heart become rapid and irregular, which causes the heart to stop beating and pumping blood. As a result, the heart is unable to pump blood to the brain, lungs, and other organs. Just seconds later, the person becomes unconscious and stops breathing. Death could occur in a matter of minutes if a sudden cardiac arrest victim doesn’t receive immediate treatment.
Sudden cardiac arrest often occurs without warning. Over half of all sudden cardiac arrest cases occur without prior symptoms, but some people may experience warning signs like dizziness or a racing heartbeat. Many sudden cardiac arrest victims seem healthy and have no known risk factors.
A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart becomes blocked, preventing blood from being delivered to that part of the heart. The blocked coronary artery must be reopened quickly to prevent that section of the heart from dying. The longer a person goes without receiving treatment for a heart attack, the worse the damage becomes.
The symptoms of a heart attack may be intense and immediate, but more often than not, they appear gradually. You could have symptoms for hours, days, or even months before having a heart attack. Usually, the heart doesn’t stop beating when you have a heart attack. Common symptoms include the following:
Not all people who have heart attacks experience the same symptoms. However, the more heart attack symptoms you have, the more likely you are to be experiencing a heart attack. The earliest warning sign of a heart attack is usually chest pain resulting from exertion and relieved by rest. Heart attack risk factors include age, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, lack of physical activity, family history of heart attacks, and stress.
Although most heart attacks don’t lead to sudden cardiac arrest, heart attacks increase the risk for sudden cardiac arrest. Sudden cardiac arrest could occur right after a heart attack or during recovery. Other heart conditions that may cause sudden cardiac arrest include heart failure, arrhythmias, and a thickened heart muscle.
If you think someone is having a heart attack and the person in unconscious, check if they are breathing by determining whether their chest is rising and falling. Place them in the recovery position if they are breathing and call 911 for emergency medical services immediately. If the victim is unconscious and not breathing, perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) immediately, get an automated external defibrillator (AED) if there is one available, and call for help.
Effective bystander CPR performed immediately after someone’s heart has stopped beating can double or triple the victim’s chance for survival, according to the American Heart Association. If CPR isn’t performed right away, the victim could suffer permanent damage to the brain and other vital organs. Continue performing CPR until emergency medical services can take over and use the AED as soon as it arrives. An AED delivers an electrical shock that may restore a normal heart rhythm.
The CDC reports that heart disease is the most common cause of death for both men and women in the US, claiming approximately 647,000 each year. Failure to act in a sudden cardiac emergency often leads to unnecessary deaths. Less than 8% of people who suffer cardiac arrest outside of a hospital survive.
The life you save with CPR is likely to be that of a loved one, since most sudden cardiac arrests happen at home. To learn how to perform CPR or use an AED, contact EMC CPR & Safety Training. We offer CPR, AED, and First Aid training nationwide, including New York City, Chicago, Indianapolis, San Antonio, and Atlanta. Call 1-800-695-5655 or contact us online for more information.
ABOUT EMC CPR & SAFETY TRAINING, A PREMIER CPR TRAINING COMPANY BASED OUT OF NEW YORK CITY:
EMC CPR & Safety Training, LLC is a company who specializes in providing American Heart Association courses and certification. Our team of instructors has trained thousands of students nationwide. We offer free phone consultation to determine how we can best meet your course needs; phone 800.695.5655 today to learn how we can help you save a life.