October is sudden cardiac arrest awareness month, a time to recognize the seriousness of sudden cardiac arrest and what can be done to help save lives.

Sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death in the United States, causing nearly 350,000 deaths each year. The average age for sudden cardiac arrest is 60, but anyone can experience it, including children and people in their 30s and 40s who have no sign of heart disease.

Dr. Michael Mazzini, director of cardiac electrophysiology at MelroseWakefield Cardiovascular Center, offers the following five things to know about sudden cardiac arrest.

  1. Sudden cardiac arrest is different from a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart becomes blocked in the arteries. “Your heart has its own electrical system,” adds Dr. Mazzini. “During sudden cardiac arrest, the heart stops beating unexpectedly because of an electrical malfunction.”
  2. Sudden cardiac arrest can be reversible in some victims if it is treated within a few minutes. Although only one in ten people who have sudden cardiac arrest survives, the chances of survival increase if CPR and use of an AED are administered immediately. “Everyone should learn CPR and know where an AED is located,” adds Dr. Mazzini. “Every business, school and government building should have one present and accessible.”
  3. Know your risk factors. “The risk factors for suffering sudden cardiac arrest are similar to those for many other cardiac health issues,” says Dr. Mazzini. They include the following:
        Previous heart attack
        Coronary artery disease (and risk factors for coronary artery disease, including smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, elevated LDL cholesterol, family history of heart disease, sedentary lifestyle)
        Heart failure from other causes
        Abnormal heart rate or rhythm (arrhythmia) of unknown cause
        Episodes of fainting of unknown cause
        Low ejection fraction (a measurement, expressed as a percentage, of how much blood the left ventricle pumps out with each contraction)
        Family history of sudden death
  4. Prevention is the key. According to Dr. Mazzini, there may be little to no warning or way to know that you are at risk for sudden cardiac arrest. So the best prevention is to reduce your risk by seeing your doctor regularly and living a heart-healthy lifestyle that includes no smoking; eating a nutritious, balanced diet; and staying physically active. Patients who are at higher risk for sudden death can be treated through the use of medications, implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) and catheter ablation.
  5. Know “Call, Push, Shock.” Knowing the current campaign may save a life.
       Call 911 and connect the person to an AED
        Push the AED analyze button
        Shock the person with the AED

For more information, contact your physician or visit www.sca-aware.org.


Tufts Medicine Formerly Wellforce