All You Should Know About Cardiac Arrest
Last updated date: 16-Jul-2021
6 mins read
What is cardiac arrest?
Our heart is one of the toughest organs of our body. Its main function is to pump oxygenated blood throughout the body. A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops functioning unexpectedly.
It generally results from an electrical disturbance in the heart, which causes irregular heartbeats. This hampers the pumping action of the heart, stopping the blood flow through the body. A person can lose consciousness and die within minutes if immediate treatment is not given.
What are the symptoms of cardiac arrest?
Cardiac arrest is a sudden and severe condition. It can cause:
- Sudden collapse
- Loss of consciousness
- Loss of breathing
- No heartbeat
Even though cardiac arrest is an unexpected condition, you may experience certain symptoms moments before a complete arrest. The early symptoms are as follows:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Feeling dizzy
- Chest pain
- Nausea and vomiting
When to see a doctor?
You should talk to your doctor immediately if you notice symptoms like difficulty in breathing, chest pain, loss of consciousness, or any of the signs mentioned above.
What are its causes?
Most of the cardiac arrests happen when the electrical system od a diseased heart malfunctions. Such malfunction may cause an abnormal heart rhythm like ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia. A few cardiac arrests can also be caused by extreme slowing of the heart’s rhythm (also called bradycardia).
Such irregular heartbeats which can cause cardiac arrest, are considered life-threatening arrhythmias.
Other causes of cardiac arrest include:
- Scarring of the heart tissue: This scarring could be due to a prior heart attack or may be another cause. A heart that’s enlarged or scarred from any cause is likely to develop life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias. The first 6 months following a heart attack represents a particularly high-risk period for sudden cardiac arrest in those patients suffering from a atherosclerotic heart disease.
- Cardiomyopathy (a thickened heart muscle): Damage to your heart muscle can be the cause of heart valve disease, high blood pressure, or other causes. An unhealthy heart muscle may make you more prone to a sudden cardiac arrest, especially if you also have heart failure.
- Heart medications: Under some conditions, various heart drugs can set the stage for arrhythmias that may lead to a sudden cardiac arrest. This may look odd but, anti-arrhythmic medications used for the treatment of arrhythmias can sometimes produce ventricular arrhythmias even at normally prescribed doses. This is known as a “proarrhythmic” effect. Major changes in blood levels of magnesium and potassium (from using diuretics, for instance) can also cause life-threatening arrhythmias and cardiac arrest.
- Electrical abnormalities: Certain electrical abnormalities such as Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome and Long QT syndrome may cause sudden cardiac arrest in children and young people.
- Recreational drug use: Use of some recreational drugs may also cause sudden cardiac arrest, even in otherwise healthy people
- Blood vessel abnormalities: In some rare cases, congenital blood vessel abnormalities, particularly in the aorta or coronary arteries, may lead to cardiac arrest. Often the adrenaline released during intense physical activity acts as a trigger for a sudden cardiac arrest when such abnormalities are present.
Who is at risk for cardiac arrest?
You may be at risk of having a cardiac arrest if you suffer from the following heart conditions:
- Coronary Artery Disease
- Irregular Heart Valves
- Heart Arrhythmia
- Electrical Impulse Problems
- Previous Episode of Heart Attack
Apart from the above-mentioned conditions, there are various other risk factors like
- Age: With increasing age, the risk of a cardiac arrest increases.
- Family history: If anyone in your family has had a history of heart problems, you are at a greater risk.
- Stress: Stress is a major culprit. It is linked to a number of diseases, including cardiac arrests.
- Electrolyte disturbance( electrolytes such as potassium,calcium,magnesium etc)
What are the treatment options available?
The available treatment options include immediate treatment and long term treatment.
- CPR: Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is needed for treating sudden cardiac arrest immediately.
- Defibrillation: A device is programmed to send an electrical shock to the heart when it detects ventricular defibrillation. This stops the heart momentarily and causes it to go back to its normal rhythm.
Long term treatment
Once you have recovered from the cardiac arrest, your doctor might run several diagnostic and imaging tests. Based on the tests, the following treatments might be prescribed:
- Medication: Antiarrhythmic drugs for long term treatment of Arrhythmias may be prescribed. Beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors might also be advised.
- Surgery: Coronary Angioplasty, bypass surgery, or Corrective Heart Surgery may also be performed to repair and remove any blockages in the heart.
What are its complications?
The complications can vary from being mild to severe or life-threatening. Some of the most common complications are as follows:
- Heart complications: After experiencing a cardiac arrest, you may continue experiencing abnormal heartbeats (Arrhythmia) due to problems in the electrical impulses. The ventricles may also be permanently damaged.
- Neurological complications: Due to the decrease in blood flow to the brain, there might be a considerable loss in brain cells. This can cause permanent brain damage and can lead to stroke like symptoms
What are the lifestyle changes that can be made after a cardiac arrest?
One of the ideal ways to treat and prevent heart diseases is by opting for a healthy lifestyle. There are numerous changes that can be made to your current lifestyle to reduce the risk of another cardiac episode. Some of the ways through which you can improve your heart condition are as follows:
- Quit smoking and limit the consumption of alcohol: Alcohol consumption and smoking are the major causes of heart diseases. Limit your alcohol intake to one or two glasses a day or preferably none at all and quit smoking, to avoid the risk of cardiac arrest or heart failure.
- Reduce stress: Stress, anxiety, and depression act as precursors to many health conditions like high blood pressure, eating disorders, and more. Try to control and manage your stress by practicing yoga and meditation regularly.
- Consume a heart-healthy diet: Consume foods that are low in saturated fat, cholesterol, trans-fat, and sodium. Do not drink sweetened beverages. Avoid consuming processed foods.
Instead, consume more fresh fruits and leafy vegetables, which are packed with vitamins and minerals. You can also eat lean proteins, low-fat dairy products, and healthy oils to improve your heart’s health.
- Physical activeness: A sedentary lifestyle can do more harm than good. It is important to exercise every day to strengthen your heart muscles and increase the flow of oxygen. Exercising regularly, even for just 30 minutes, can help regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It will also help you to remain calm and relieve stress.
Consider doing cardiovascular exercises, like walking, running, or swimming, regularly to improve your health. However, do speak to your doctor before engaging in heavy exercise.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity is one of the major drivers of heart attacks. By committing to exercising and healthy eating, you can maintain a healthy weight.
- Get asound sleep: Sleep deprivation increases your chances of developing health problems like hypertension, depression, diabetes, leading to a cardiac arrest.
- Get regular health check-ups: Having other diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc., can be detrimental to your heart. It is necessary to get regular full body check-ups to manage those conditions properly.
Cardiac arrest is a severe medical condition. However, by proper medication and adopting a healthy lifestyle, it can be managed. Consult a doctor from time to time to avoid any complications and manage other health conditions effectively.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is it normal to have chest pain after recovering from cardiac arrest?
After recovery, you might experience mild chest pain. However, if the pain keeps on increasing, visit your doctor immediately.
Are mood swings common post cardiac arrest?
Mood swings post cardiac incidents are common. It may be because of the medications or changes in your lifestyle.
After how long can I go back to work if I have experienced a heart attack?
The time may vary from a few days to weeks, depending on your health and nature of work. Consult your doctor and follow advise as given by the doctor