One of the leading causes of death worldwide is sudden cardiac arrest, a heart condition associated with other ailments such as myocardial infarction and arrhythmia. A heart attack is not the same as a cardiac arrest, even though the former may end up triggering the latter. Cardiac arrest is the clinical term that describes a sudden change in cardiac function leading to cardiac failure and death. Patients with a cardiac arrest are non-responsive; it is the last stage of ventricular fibrillation and other severe heart problems resulting the heart to stop pumping blood.
Thus, a patient with cardiac arrest is unconscious and has no stable vital signs. This condition is also known as sudden cardiac death, and even though it is a deadly condition that requires urgent medical attention in the emergency room, there are a series of warning signs and heart conditions that you can detect and fix in order to avoid this dangerous condition.
The most important warning signs and risk factors of cardiac arrest are as follows:
It is the clinical name of fainting or losing one’s consciousness. But different from other types of fainting, patients with a syncope recover quickly and entirely without memory loss and other consequences found in seizures, antidepressant toxicity, and other causes of fainting. The cause of syncope is a sudden and temporary reduction in the blood flow to the brain, and it is a risk factor to suffer a cardiac arrest.
There are many causes of chest pain, but in patients with previous myocardial infarction or any known heart disease it is crucial to assess chest pain, primarily when it is located in the centre of the chest and feels oppressive with severe intensity. There are many types of myocardial infarction, and patients report symptoms that can vary significantly from one case to another. However, it is known that many cases of cardiac arrest started with myocardial infarction, and patients with a heart condition should always be in control with his cardiologist in order to avoid this life-threatening complication.
Reduced cardiac function:
The heart has the normal function of pumping blood, but many different factors may reduce its potency. For example, a previous myocardial infarction and other coronary artery diseases and a dilated ventricle may reduce the ejection fraction to half of the average capacity or less. When the ejection fraction is around 30-35%, there is a risk of cardiac arrest, and these patients should be carefully examined by their cardiologist to reduce the cardiovascular risk factors to the minimum. The patient often perceives this reduction of the cardiac function as chronic fatigue, tiredness and reduced endurance.
A gradual decline of body functions and endurance:
As mentioned, endurance is associated with the normal heart function, and adult patients experiencing a gradual reduction of their endurance should talk about their symptoms with a cardiologist in order to assess their heart function through a series of imaging tests that will detect various heart alterations. One of them is called tetralogy of Fallot, a congenital disorder in the structure of the heart that is associated with an increased rate of cardiac arrest. Adult patients with tetralogy of Fallot have symptoms such as a gradual decline in their body function, no endurance in exercise or sports, and palpitations.
They are felt by the patient as sudden pounding sensation in the centre of the chest that is often felt as irregular and may increase frequency when the patient is nervous and anxious. Palpitations are usually a sign of arrhythmia, an alteration in the normal rhythm of the heart. In arrhythmia, the heart becomes filled with blood; one beat is skipped because there’s no sufficient stimulation and the next beat turns out to be more aggressive to make up for the excess blood that is filling the heart. Patients with arrhythmias should control their medical condition because it is a warning sign that may lead to cardiac arrest in severe cases.
Tachycardia and arrhythmias are closely linked together, and sometimes patients with arrhythmias do not feel any palpitations, but they report their heart is always racing. Thus, this is a symptom and may be a warning sign that any cardiologist will take in consideration to measure your heart function and detect any abnormality to suggest treatment options and reduce the cardiovascular risk.
There are few cases of cardiac arrest in children, and some of them are associated with tetralogy of Fallot, a condition we have mentioned above. Another condition leading to cardiac arrest in children is the Jervell and Lange-Nielsen syndrome, a genetic alteration in the potassium channels of the cell that leads to alterations in the inner ear and the heart. Therefore, it is essential to assess children with bilateral deafness for any cardiovascular alteration to prevent the risk of sudden death.
Snoring is common, but sometimes associated with a sleep disturbance called sleep apnea. In sleep apnea, patients snore loudly, and throughout the night they undergo a temporary blockage of the airways. They stop breathing for a moment, and it is usually followed by an especially loud snore. Sleep apnea cases should be assessed by a doctor promptly because it is a risk factor of cardiac arrest and sudden death.
As you have seen, cardiac arrest is basically when your heart stops beating. There are many risk factors and warning signs, and not all of them are typical symptoms affecting the heart. Even though the heart is essential to keep us alive, it is possible to survive a cardiac arrest, and that is why CPR and modern rescue techniques come into play. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation techniques can be applied by anyone with no major medical training and can be a lifesaving step for a patient who is undergoing a heart attack, atrial fibrillation, or any other heart condition that leads to cardiac arrest. The majority of cardiac arrests happens in the patient’s house, and some of them happen in the workplace. Thus, it is essential to know the basics of CPR because we never know when it may come in handy.