When considering the signs of cardiac arrest, most people think of a person suddenly collapsing, falling unconscious and unresponsive. While these are two very key indicators of cardiac arrest, knowing the early signs leading up to a cardiac arrest can help prevent and treat an emergency before it becomes a life-threatening event.
Read on to learn what cardiac arrest is, the eight signs of cardiac arrest, what to do when someone experiences an emergency, and tips that can help prevent cardiac arrest.
Cardiac Arrest Defined
Cardiac arrest is defined as when the heart stops beating suddenly, which is why it is also referred to as sudden cardiac arrest. According to professionals at John Hopkins Medical, there are a variety of underlying events that could lead to cardiac arrest, such as:
- Arrhythmia or fibrillation — This is an electrical disturbance in the signals that help the heart to keep normal rhythm and function.
- Coronary artery disease — This is a gradual building of plaque that causes a blockage in the heart.
- Lack of oxygen or blood — This can disturb the normal cardiac rhythm and require lifesaving measures.
While these are the most common events that result in cardiac arrest, they are not the only reasons a person’s heart may stop beating.
Identifying Signs Of Cardiac Arrest
Not every cardiac event kicks off with a sudden collapse. More often, the person experiences a variety of symptoms before going into full cardiac arrest. The early detection of cardiac arrest is essential for early intervention and treatment, which greatly improves the odds of survival.
Early Warning Signs of Cardiac Arrest
There are differences in the early symptoms of cardiac arrest based on a variety of characteristics, such as gender and physical fitness level, but the following symptoms could be a warning sign to reach out to a doctor or call 911 to start medical intervention as soon as possible.
- Chest discomfort is one of the key warning signs of cardiac arrest as it can be an indication of a buildup of pressure in the chest. This is reported to be more common in men than women, although some women do experience it as well.
- Shortness of breath that cannot be explained by physical activity or does not resolve itself after brief rest.
- Weakness that is uncharacteristic or sudden. This can be a sign that blood is no longer being pumped effectively throughout the body.
- Heart palpitations, or quick flutters, pounding, or rapid beating of the heart that last a long time and can also be more brief and return intermittently.
Someone experiencing one or more of these symptoms for an extended period of time should consider reaching out to a medical professional to rule out the potential for cardiac arrest.
Signs of Cardiac Arrest
Once a person is in cardiac arrest, the diagnosis becomes much easier to make as the symptoms are more clear and serious. These include:
- Sudden collapse
- No pulse
- No breathing
- Loss of consciousness
Once a person experiences these symptoms, bystanders should immediately contact 911 and begin lifesaving measures. The sooner a person receives intervention, the more likely they are to survive cardiac arrest.
Cardiac Arrest Treatment
After contacting 911, bystanders should begin CPR as soon as possible. Even hands-only CPR without rescue breaths by those who aren’t fully trained in CPR has been shown to be effective in treating out of hospital cardiac arrest. For a comprehensive step-by-step CPR guide, you can check out our blog about the steps of CPR.
If an AED is available when someone is experiencing cardiac arrest, bystanders can follow the graphics included on the device. For a walkthrough on how to use an AED, we’ve also shared a blog about the steps needed to effectively utilize this new lifesaving technology.
Cardiac Arrest Prevention
While there’s no 100% surefire way to prevent all cardiac events, making lifestyle changes can help decrease the risk factors for cardiac arrest, which is just as important as being aware of the signs of cardiac arrest.
Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet that supports proper cholesterol levels and healthy weight can be a great long-term choice towards avoiding cardiac arrest factors. By no means are we suggesting that if you eat unhealthy food on occasion that you need to be on the watch for signs of cardiac arrest, but being aware of your habits can help prevent future cardiac complications.
This National Institute of Health article outlined a study done at the University of Alabama which followed 21,000 participants for ten years and assessed their eating patterns, which fell into five categories.
The category named “southern-style,” which included foods high in fats, fried foods, processed meats, and sugar-sweetened drinks, had a 46 % increase in risk for sudden cardiac arrest that resulted in death.
While these researchers acknowledged that there are a lot of variables to this study, they pointed out the adaptability of a person’s diet and the impact it could make in reducing the signs of cardiac arrest and associated risk factors.
One heart-healthy habit you can implement to reduce the risk for cardiac arrest is to build in ways to stay active in your day-to-day life. This doesn’t have to be hitting the gym and setting personal records, but merely implementing simple and easy ways of keeping your cardio fitness up can help a lot.
Challenge yourself in small ways, like taking the stairs instead of riding the elevator, or even simply parking further out in the parking lot at work to get a few extra steps in. Additionally, taking a short walk after eating not only helps with digestion, but can help support a healthy heart.
Smoking & Cardiac Arrest Risks
According to the American Heart Association, one-third of all cardiac related deaths are people who have smoked or are exposed to secondhand smoke. This single statistic can show the long-term impact on a person’s heart and the ultimate cost. But how do a variety of small events add up to a major cardiac risk?
Smoking causes an instant rise in blood pressure as well as a similarly instant and long-term increase in heart rate. This measurable impact on heart health paired with a decrease in oxygen that is able to reach your body’s tissues contributes to the early warning signs of cardiac arrest. Added to damage being done to blood vessels, the risk factors quickly grow.
A 2008 study showed that by quitting smoking, a person can reduce risk factors significantly, even in the first year. A more recent 2015 study published by the American Heart Association journals found that after fifteen years, a former smoker’s risk for cardiac arrest drops to the equivalent risk for a person who has never smoked.
These two studies show that while we know smoking has an immediate and measurable effect on your heart’s health, the damage can be undone, though it does take some time. For this reason, the sooner you look to eliminate smoking habits, the sooner your heart can begin to heal itself.
Knowing the early warning signs of cardiac arrest can prove to be lifesaving knowledge when someone begins to feel out of the norm. Even more importantly, knowing how to identify when someone is in cardiac arrest and how to perform CPR can make all the difference when someone collapses.
While knowing what to do in an emergency is a skill we believe everyone should know, it is also important to build healthy living practices that can reduce the risk factors for cardiac arrest. Contact us today to learn more about how ProTrainings can help you and your staff best prepare to stay safe and save lives.