Cardiac arrest is a serious condition that is often mistaken for a heart attack or heart failure. However, cardiac arrest is different from both and requires specific treatment methods, such as the use of a defibrillator.
Defibrillators deliver an electrical shock to the heart to try to restore the heart’s normal electrical signals. If you notice that someone is in cardiac arrest, you should not hesitate to act. One of the benefits of CPR certification is that it gives you the tools to confidently respond to sudden cardiac arrest emergencies. Read on to learn more about what cardiac arrest does to the body and what you need to do to respond to a cardiac arrest situation.
What is cardiac arrest?
Cardiac arrest, sometimes called sudden cardiac arrest, is a condition in which the heart suddenly stops beating, cutting off blood flow to the brain and other organs. Sudden cardiac arrest is an emergency and is fatal when left untreated.
What happens during cardiac arrest?
Electrical signals govern your heart rate. When these electrical signals are interrupted, the heart begins to beat irregularly. Different types of arrhythmias can occur and some are not dangerous. An irregular heartbeat called vestibular fibrillation is the most common cause of sudden cardiac arrest.
When ventricular fibrillation occurs, the heart stops pumping oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. It can be fatal in a matter of minutes.
Link to heart disease
Most people at risk for sudden cardiac arrest also have coronary heart disease. Coronary heart disease causes decreased blood flow to the heart and can lead to a heart attack that damages the heart’s electrical system.
What else causes cardiac arrest?
Cardiac arrest occurs for other reasons, including the following:
- Great blood loss or lack of oxygen.
- Vigorous exercise, if you have heart problems
- Potassium levels that are too high cause deadly heart rhythm problems.
- Genetic conditions can increase the tendency for arrhythmias.
- Changes in the structure of your heart. For example, enlarged hearts or changes caused by infection can disrupt the heart’s electrical signals and contribute to sudden cardiac arrest.
Is cardiac arrest a heart attack?
Your heart usually doesn’t stop during a heart attack like it does during cardiac arrest. One or more arteries become clogged during a heart attack, stopping blood flow, preventing the heart from getting enough oxygen. The lack of oxygen can kill heart tissue.
However, there could be a link between heart attacks and sudden cardiac arrest. Scar tissue that grows from heart attacks can disrupt the heart’s natural signals, putting you at risk of cardiac arrest. Heart attacks themselves can also trigger cardiac arrest.
Is cardiac arrest heart failure?
Cardiac arrest is an instant crisis, while heart failure is a gradual condition in which the heart weakens over time until it can no longer deliver enough blood and oxygen to the entire body. When your cells lack these nutrients, your body begins to deteriorate. You may find it more difficult to catch your breath or do simple things like carry groceries or climb stairs.
Who is at risk of cardiac arrest?
Although there is no specific cause for cardiac arrest, there are some known risk factors:
- Those with coronary artery disease.
- Men are more likely to experience cardiac arrest.
- Previous arrhythmias or cardiac arrest. Family history of arrhythmias or cardiac arrest.
- Smoking and alcohol abuse.
- Diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart failure.
- One or more heart attacks.
It is important to note that sudden and intense emotions, such as out-of-control anger, can trigger arrhythmias that lead to cardiac arrest. Mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, can also increase the chance of sudden cardiac arrest. If you are having trouble with any of these conditions, see a doctor to see what treatment options are available.
What to do when someone has sudden cardiac arrest
If someone experiences sudden cardiac arrest, they should be treated immediately with a defibrillator. A defibrillator is a machine that delivers a shock to the heart in an attempt to restore a normal heartbeat. The shock must be delivered within minutes to help. First responders, such as police officers, firefighters, and paramedics, often have a defibrillator and know how to use it. Many public places also have an automated external defibrillator on the premises that anyone can use.
How to use an AED
You do not need training to use an AED. The device will issue instructions and detect the arrhythmia so that it can deliver the correct shock to the heart. If you think someone is in cardiac arrest, you should contact medical authorities immediately and perform CPR until they arrive.
What should you do after experiencing cardiac arrest?
After recovering from cardiac arrest, you should see a cardiologist to check your electrical system and devise a treatment plan. Doing so will help prevent another episode of cardiac arrest. You may also need blood tests to check your heart.
What other tests should be done?
- cardiac magnetic resonance
What is an ICD?
If you are in cardiac arrest, you may also receive an ICD, a small automatic defibrillator.
Which is implanted under the skin and sends an electric shock if it detects an irregular heartbeat. Your doctor will recommend it if you have severe heart disease or have already had cardiac arrest.
How can sudden cardiac arrest be prevented?
Diet: Make sure you eat plenty of vegetables and limit unhealthy fats like saturated and trans fats.
Watch your weight- Obesity can contribute to cardiac arrest.
Stress management- Learning stress reduction techniques and exercising more often can reduce the risk of sudden cardiac arrest.
Give up smoking- Smoking is a known cause of heart disease and quite often leads to sudden cardiac arrest.
Bottom Line: What Happens to the Body During Cardiac Arrest?
Cardiac arrest occurs when the electrical rhythms of the heart are interrupted and the heart stops pumping oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body. It can be fatal within minutes and requires the help of a defibrillator and medical treatment.
However, viewers can also do their part. If you witness sudden cardiac arrest, you can perform CPR. If you are with another person, you can instruct them to find an AED while you perform CPR. To perform CPR correctly, you should consider getting your CPR certification online. You can visit an online CPR certification provider to earn your CPR certification at your own pace.