Do Symptoms Precede Cardiac Arrest? - In a Heartbeat

Do Symptoms Precede Cardiac Arrest?

There’s no denying the seriousness of Cardiac Arrest.  The sudden and life threatening heart condition claims close to 500,000 American lives each year.  While there are several conditions that are believed to cause cardiac arrest, the most common are Ventricular Fibrillation or Atrial Fibrillation.  

Ventricular Fibrillation is a condition where the ventricles, or lower chambers, quiver out of control, resulting in significant change to the heart’s rhythm, dramatically decreasing or stopping blood flow.  The second, Atrial Fibrillation, occurs when the upper chambers beat irregularly and out of sync with the lower chambers.

In addition to A-fib and V-fib, another condition known to cause Cardiac Arrest is Atrial Tachycardia and/or Ventricular Tachycardia. While A-fib and V-fib cause the heart to beat out of sync or random, with Tachycardia the heartbeat is regular, but extremely fast. Fibrillation and Tachycardia can both result in Sudden Cardiac Arrest.

While there may be no clear warning signs that cardiac arrest is eminent, many survivors report experiencing at least one of the following conditions in the days and weeks prior to their cardiac event.

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Heart palpitations
  • Fatigue 
  • Dizziness/Fainting
  • Vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms

Being aware of symptoms that may immediately proceed a cardiac arrest event is important, but it is equally important to be aware of the risk factors that can lead to sudden cardiac death.  These include:

  • Personal or family history of coronary artery disease
  • Enlarged heart
  • Congenital Heart Disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Use of drugs
  • Nutritional deficiencies, specifically magnesium and potassium
  • Sleep apnea
  • Kidney disease
  • Male gender

Regardless of the presence or absence of prior symptoms/conditions, you should seek immediate medical condition for anyone who experiences sudden collapse, lack of pulse, stops breathing and loses consciousness.  Call 9-1-1, begin CPR and use an AED, if one is available, while you wait for emergency personnel to arrive.

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