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Each year, 356,000 cases of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) are reported in the United States alone. With 90% of these cases resulting in fatalities, there’s little wonder as to why SCA is considered to be the largest cause of natural death in most countries around the world.
Even with such drastic numbers, it’s important to know that people aren’t powerless in the face of this condition. Learning the signs of SCA and properly responding to it can be the key to saving lives. Whether it’s a family member, a friend, or a stranger on the street, here are the steps you can take when somebody undergoes SCA.
What Are The Causes Of A Sudden Cardiac Arrest?
Before knowing the proper steps to responding to SCA, learning the possible causes of this condition will prove beneficial. Prior knowledge on these factors can help you keep an eye on susceptible family members and spot early warning signs quicker.
It’s important to keep in mind that SCA isn’t synonymous with a heart attack. SCA occurs when heart functions are abruptly interrupted or completely lost. This is typically a result from problems with the heart’s electrical system. However, SCA can sometimes occur when a heart attack triggers these electrical problems.
Ultimately, the general causes of SCA can be attributed to underlying conditions pertaining to the heart. These can include:
- Enlarged heart (cardiomyopathy)
- Congenital heart disease
- Valvular heart disease
- Blood vessel abnormalities
- Electrical abnormalities of the heart
- Coronary artery disease
- Scarring from a previous heart attack
- Side effects from heart medications
All these factors can lead to abnormalities within the heart’s natural rhythm, otherwise known as arrhythmia. Aside from internal factors, external conditions like physical stress and extreme temperatures can also increase the risk of triggering SCA. Moderation in lifestyle choices can keep loved ones healthy while keeping the risks to a minimum. Moreover, monitoring friends and family with a history of cardiovascular complications can help keep you prepared for possible occurrences.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Sudden Cardiac Arrest?
Staying true to its name, SCA can occur quickly and without clear indication. Whether young and athletic or older and relaxed, SCA can affect anyone. This makes it even more crucial to be on the lookout for its various symptoms.
Some of the most common warning signs before SCA occurs are:
- Chest Pains
- Sudden shortness of breath
SCA is lethal because it doesn’t always seem like the immediate culprit to most of these symptoms. Comprehending the difference between these symptoms from other conditions can help you spot the nuances between what are stress-induced shortness of breath and what are agonal gasps.
How Can You Respond To Sudden Cardiac Arrest?
The proper application of first aid can be the difference between life and death in these situations. As such, knowledge on what to do during and after someone experiences SCA can be invaluable. Should you suspect someone in your immediate vicinity to be suffering from SCA, the following steps should be taken.
1. Check For Responsiveness
Approach the person and check for signs of responsiveness. Try to ask questions about what they’re currently experiencing. Tapping them can also be done to check responses towards all forms of stimuli. Keep in mind that, loss of consciousness may also occur to the person experiencing SCA.
Should they fail to respond to any of your prompts, make sure to check for a pulse and signs of breathing. After doing so, the next steps should be followed.
2. Ask For Help
It will be best to ask a bystander to immediately contact emergency medical services. After that, you should ask another person to find an automated external defibrillator (AED) as quickly as they can. AEDs are labeled as such and typically come in red and white storage units. Furthermore, establishments like malls, gyms, and restaurants should have these devices on hand.
Should you find yourself alone during the incident, call emergency medical services and follow their instructions.
3. Perform Proper CPR
While waiting for emergency responders to arrive, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) will have to be performed on the patient. Push down on the center of their chest at least two inches deep while aiming for 100-120 pushes per minute. Be sure to wait for the chest to return to its normal position after every pulse.
4. Apply The AED
Should the AED arrive, immediately switch it on and follow its instructions for use. These devices are designed to be used by non-medical personnel like flight attendants, teachers, and lifeguards. Ultimately, anyone can be capable of using them without any prior experience.
5. Continue Administering CPR
Should an AED be unavailable or the device doesn’t recommend consecutive shocks, then CPR must still be constantly administered. You should continue to do so until the patient shows signs of responsiveness or when the emergency responders arrive.
Although SCA can strike without warning, you can equip yourself with the tools to address it. Knowing the warning signs and the proper response to it can help keep your cool should it occur. Furthermore, this can also serve to increase the quality of life for everyone around you.