When there is a sudden loss of all heart activity due to an irregular heart rhythm, breathing stops, leading to cardiac arrest. Unless there is immediate intervention, a sudden cardiac arrest can even lead to a person's death. Loss of consciousness and unresponsiveness are a couple of common symptoms of cardiac arrest but the problem is more pronounced when this cardiac arrest takes place while sleeping. Dr V Rajasekhar, Senior Consultant Interventional Cardiologist & Electrophysiologist, Certified Specialist for TAVR (Percutaneous Trans Aortic Valve Replacement), Yashoda Hospitals, Hyderabad, says, "A sudden cardiac arrest during sleep is a silent, fast-paced and dangerous problem that has confused doctors and worried many people." Let's dig deep with the doctor and find out why it happens, how to notice the signs, and what we can do to stay safe.
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Cardiac Arrest While Sleeping Causes: Sleep Apnea, Poor Lifestyle, And More
"Sudden cardiac arrest means the heart suddenly stops working. This is a very serious problem. If it happens when someone is sleeping, it can be very dangerous. When we sleep, our body is relaxed, and this makes things worse when the heart stops so suddenly," says Dr V Rajasekhar.
So what are the reasons that lead to cardiac arrests during sleep? The doctor says that there are several reasons. "One big reason is when someone's breathing stops for a short time during sleep, called sleep apnea. This makes the heart work really hard. Heart problems that were there before - that is existing heart ailments -can also lead to this. Not being active and making unhealthy choices like eating bad food and not exercising can add to the risk," says Dr Rajasekhar.
One of the biggest problems is that the danger can land suddenly without any warning. As Dr Rajasekhar points out, "Unlike what we see in movies, most of the time, there's no warning. Some people might feel pain in their chest or feel tired, but for many, it just happens without any sign. This is why we need to be careful and ready."
Cardiac Arrest: Take Care Of Your Heart
Dr Rajasekhar says that to prevent something like this from happening, we need to take care of our hearts. "That means moving our bodies (being active), eating good food, and not getting too stressed. If we have problems when we sleep or feel discomfort in the chest area, we should get help. Learning how to help someone by doing CPR and having a machine that can help the heart (AED) at home can also save lives," the doctor adds.
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Men Vs Women: Who Is More At Risk?
Men are more likely to get sudden cardiac arrests, doctors say. "Men are generally more prone to suffering sudden cardiac arrest compared to women. This is partly because men often have more risk factors that can lead to heart problems. These risk factors include things like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking, which can increase the chances of a heart issue. Additionally, men tend to have more serious heart conditions that can trigger cardiac arrest," says Dr Rajasekhar.
However, when women do experience sudden cardiac arrest, it can be more severe and less survivable, the doctor warns. "This might be because women's hearts can react differently to certain heart problems, making them more complicated to treat. Also, women might not always show the same signs of heart trouble as men do, which can delay getting help," adds Dr Rajasekhar.
It's important to remember that anyone, regardless of gender, can be at risk for sudden cardiac arrest. "Taking care of your heart by staying active, eating healthy, and managing stress can help reduce the chances of it happening. If you have any heart-related symptoms or concerns, it's crucial to talk to a healthcare professional to catch any issues early and get the right treatment," says Dr Rajasekhar.