What happens inside your body right before cardiac arrest? Dr Pravin K Goel, Director - Interventional Cardiology, Heart Institute Medanta shares some important symptoms that you may notice.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is a serious heart ailment that necessitates prompt medical attention and treatment. There is a sudden loss of heart function in cardiac arrest. The heart stops or beats too quickly, cutting off blood flow to the brain and the rest of the body. As a result, people experiencing cardiac arrest collapse and become unresponsive. To understand a sudden cardiac arrest, and the various symptoms that the body may show up right before it hits you, we spoke to Dr Pravin K Goel, Director - Interventional Cardiology, Heart Institute Medanta, here's what the doctor has to say.
Each heartbeat is triggered by an electrical impulse sent by the heart. When this electrical impulse pattern abruptly changes, the heartbeat becomes irregular, and the heart stops beating. The heart is unable to transmit oxygen-rich blood to the brain and the rest of the body as a result. If not treated immediately, cardiac arrest can be fatal.
SCA can result in a person's sudden death if medical aid is not offered within the first few minutes. The heart beats at a pace of 60-100 beats per minute, and any fluctuation in this rate, whether too slow (Bradycardia) or too fast (Tachycardia), is referred to as cardiac arrhythmia. Arrhythmia can be fatal in people who have a sudden rise in heart rate or who are genetically susceptible to heart disease.
Warning Sudden Cardiac Arrest Signs
Occasionally up to 2 weeks before an SCA episode, few warning signs and symptoms may occur. The earliest and, in many cases, the sole indication of SCA is loss of consciousness (fainting) caused by a shortage of blood to the brain, which leads to a loss of heartbeat or pulse.
While in most of the cases (>50%) SCA occurs without any prior warning symptoms, some of the symptoms that could occur immediately before an attack are:
- Weakness or fatigue
- Fainting due to shortness of breath
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Palpitations in the heart
- Chest ache
- Nausea, Vomiting
SCA symptoms also vary slightly between men and women. Men are more likely than women to experience chest pain and have fewer other indicators of discomfort, whereas women are more likely to claim shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
Unusual Sudden Cardiac Arrest Signs
While chest discomfort is a prominent symptom of SCA, the pain can occur anywhere in the body. It can be in the front, left, or right shoulder, left or right hand, upper tummy, jaw, neck, back between the two shoulder blades, or anywhere between the chin and the umbilicus, front or back.
Recent research studies have shown that a specific type of back pain can also be an early indicator of SCA. This includes upper back discomfort, which may be accompanied by shoulder pain, or new-onset back pain. Furthermore, back pain along with sweating, exhaustion, and shortness of breath are uncommon symptoms of SCA. Having said that, it is also important to check if there is any unusual discomfort while exercising. Feeling dizzy, having unbearable chest pain, breathlessness, fainting, having an irregular heartbeat, and becoming excessively fatigued during or immediately after exercising could be early red flags for a potential episode of SCA.
Cardiac Arrest Response
If you detect signs of sudden cardiac arrest stated above and have experience with CPR, you should immediately call additional help and an ambulance. You can also ask for someone nearby to search for an AED (automated external defibrillator) in nearby buildings. Meanwhile, you can check for the patients breathing and start chest compressions if the individual is not breathing or is merely gasping for air. Mouth-to-mouth breathing is a possibility. At a pace of 100 to 120 reps per minute, press down at least two inches in the middle of the chest. After each rep, let the chest rise back to its starting position. If an AED is available, power up the device and follow the on-screen instructions. Keep doing CPR until the patient begins breathing or moving or until a medical professional with greater experience, arrives to take over.
Critical differences exist between a heart attack and cardiac arrest. When the heart abruptly stops beating, it is called cardiac arrest, which is frequently the result of heart illness. When a person loses consciousness, they stop breathing and show other signs of life. The first hour after this happens is the "Golden Hour" because it is crucial.
Managing the Heart
To maintain overall cardiovascular health, one must implement daily healthy lifestyle practices. A healthy lifestyle includes eating a nutritious balanced diet, exercising regularly, abstaining from, and overcoming bad habits including smoking and drug use, regulating, and restricting alcohol use, ensuring proper sleep cycles, and managing stress. Furthermore, one should be aware of any family history and take the necessary safeguards. Heart attack survivors also need to be more careful and take proper precautions to maintain good health. Regular check-ups are required to diagnose any problems and treat them with the medications and regimens prescribed by the doctor.
In patients who have survived SCA but are at risk of recurrence, an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) or cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) device may be used to monitor and improve the heartbeat as well as deliver electrical shocks during potentially fatal cardiac arrhythmias to restore the normal heart rate.
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