Sudden Cardiac Arrest: Symptoms, Risk Factors, Causes And Steps To Perform CPR

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Sudden Cardiac Arrest: Symptoms, Risk Factors, Causes And Steps To Perform CPR

Cardiac arrest can occur suddenly, often without warning signs or symptoms.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest: Symptoms, Risk Factors, Causes And Steps To Perform CPR

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Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) refers to the abrupt cessation of heart activity caused by an irregular heart rhythm, resulting in a halt in breathing and loss of consciousness. Without prompt intervention, sudden cardiac arrest can be fatal. 

It is important to distinguish sudden cardiac arrest from a heart attack. A heart attack arises when the blood supply to a particular area of the heart is obstructed, resulting in a blockage. Conversely, sudden cardiac arrest is not directly caused by a blockage. 

It is an extremely dangerous situation where your heart ceases to function, leading to a complete halt in blood circulation. As a result, your vital organs and entire body are at immediate risk of death since they require a constant supply of oxygen, which is delivered through the bloodstream.

In such emergencies, prompt medical intervention involves performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and employing defibrillation. CPR ensures that an adequate amount of oxygen reaches your lungs and subsequently reaches your brain, sustaining vital functions until a controlled electric shock can restore a normal heart rhythm. The combined efforts of CPR and defibrillation have the potential to save your life in these critical situations.

Symptoms of cardiac arrest

There are instances where individuals may experience certain indications shortly before the onset of cardiac arrest. These potential symptoms may include:

  1. Shortness of breath

  2. Dizziness

  3. Fatigue

  4. Rapid or irregular heartbeat

  5. Vomiting

During an emergency situation and the occurrence of sudden cardiac arrest, the individual may encounter the following:

  1. Chest pain

  2. Loss of consciousness

  3. Absence of pulse

  4. Shortness of breath or cessation of breathing

  5. Collapsing

Causes of a sudden cardiac arrest

Most cases of sudden cardiac arrest are caused by abnormal heart rhythms known as arrhythmias. The primary life-threatening arrhythmia responsible is ventricular fibrillation, which involves irregular and chaotic electrical signals originating from the heart's lower chambers (ventricles). During ventricular fibrillation, the heart is unable to effectively pump blood, resulting in a potentially fatal condition. 

  1. Additional factors that can contribute to sudden cardiac arrest include:

  2. Coronary heart disease

  3. Congenital heart conditions present since birth

  4. Structural changes in the heart caused by diseases or infections.

  5. Engaging in intense physical activity or experiencing significant blood loss

Risk factors of sudden cardiac arrest

There are several factors that can elevate your risk of experiencing sudden cardiac arrest and sudden cardiac death.

The primary risk factors are:

History of heart attack: Within the first six months following a heart attack, the likelihood of sudden cardiac death is significantly higher. Approximately 75% of sudden cardiac deaths are associated with a previous heart attack.

Coronary artery disease: Certain factors increase the risk of developing coronary artery disease, such as smoking, a family history of cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol levels, or an enlarged heart. Roughly 80% of sudden cardiac deaths are connected to coronary artery disease.

Steps to perform CPR:

If an adult is not breathing, gasping occasionally, or not responding to questions or taps on the shoulder, perform CPR. Similarly, for children and infants who are not breathing normally and not responsive, CPR should be administered.

Follow these basic CPR steps after ensuring the area is safe:

  1. Call the emergency helpline number or ask someone nearby to do so

  2. Lay the person on their back and ensure their airway is open

  3. Check for breathing. If they are not breathing, initiate CPR

  4. Administer 30 chest compressions

  5. Provide two rescue breaths

  6. Repeat the cycle of compressions and breaths until an ambulance or automated external defibrillator (AED) arrives

Preventing cardiac arrest

Although cardiac arrest cannot be prevented at the exact moment it occurs, there are certain healthy practices individuals can adopt to maintain a healthy heart throughout their lifetime. Here are some lifestyle adjustments that can contribute to better overall health:

Quit smoking: Smoking has detrimental effects on both your lungs and heart health. It can also lead to various severe complications. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to quit smoking in order to maintain overall well-being.

Eat healthy: Adopting a nutritious and well-balanced diet can significantly improve your heart health. Incorporate more antioxidant-rich foods into your meals, with fresh fruits and vegetables being the ideal choices to include in your diet.

Check on your cholesterol levels: High cholesterol levels play a significant role in heart diseases. To keep your cholesterol balanced, avoid processed foods and those that are high in unhealthy fats.

Exercise: Regular exercise is the optimal approach for maintaining natural health. Engaging in exercise promotes excellent cardiovascular well-being and effectively manages various risk factors associated with heart diseases.


Recovering from sudden cardiac arrest can be an overwhelming ordeal. It's crucial to allocate time for recuperation and focus on regaining the ability to engage in activities you once enjoyed. Ensuring you attend follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider is important. 

Disclaimer: The above content is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of a qualified physician or doctor. The Company does not vouch for or endorse any of the above content and disclaims any and all warranties, express or implied, relating to the same.