What is the most common cause of sudden cardiac arrest? Is it avoidable? The expert explains
People at risk for cardiovascular problems should take extra precautions during the winter months. The physiology of our body changes to allow us to live in cold weather. But this year, the challenge for them is twofold. It is estimated that most of India’s population has been exposed to covid and with reports of hypercoagulation associated with covid, people need to take extra care of themselves.
Heart problems and related disorders are the biggest killers in the world. The most dangerous aspect of these diseases/disorders is that the cause can become infected inside our body – high blood pressure, thick blood, arrhythmias – but we can rarely spot them until it is too late. India is in a country with one of the highest rates of heart failures, heart attacks and strokes among others. Over the past year, India has seen famous young personalities such as Sidharth Shukla, Puneeth Rajkumar and Kamal Khan who succumbed to cardiovascular diseases. Every year we lose at least 7 lakh people due to sudden cardiac arrest just in India.
Sudden cardiac arrest and its causes
Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is scary. It can happen anytime and anywhere, and as we have seen over the past two decades, to anyone. Cardiac arrest is a sudden stoppage of the functioning of the heart, that is, the heart stops beating, which leads to loss of breathing and consciousness. This is an electrical problem, where the heart’s electrical system causes problems with blood flow, which ultimately stops the heart from pumping blood.
An episode of SCA is not as sudden as its name might suggest. There is always a cause and warning signs to most conditions. A person is more susceptible to ACS if they are having an episode of heart attack, which could disrupt the heart’s electrical system. However, other cardiovascular diseases can also lead to cardiac arrest. Other heart defects that may increase the risk of ACS include congenital heart defects (heart defect at birth), cardiac enlargement, and coronary heart disease.
We must also refrain from coming into contact with cold water, especially in extremely cold conditions, because the shock received from contact with cold water could cause the heart to stop.
Once we lose our heart function, we lose our ability to breathe and the pulse stops, but there are some early signs. We need to see a doctor if we face issues such as chest pain, palpitations, and unexplained wheezing.
Common risk factors
Like other illnesses, certain lifestyle habits and other factors increase the risk of getting ACS. Smoking and pollution are major causes of concern, as are all other cardiovascular disorders. Although ACS is more common in people over the age of 60, however, there has been an increase in the number of cases in people aged 20 and over, which is a major concern. Many researchers are trying to establish a link between cardiac arrests and the mental health of young people. People with chronic kidney disease are also at higher risk for ACS.
Can we save someone whose heart has stopped beating?
It is possible to save someone whose heart may have stopped beating. Time is of the utmost importance here, as soon as someone collapses we need to contact medical help, and until it reaches we need to give the patient CPR and keep pumping their chest at a steady pace. A defibrillator may be needed to restart the heart, but chest compressions can also help.
We need to ensure that people with heart defects maintain a healthy lifestyle to avoid SCAs. You have to make them do physical activities, eat healthy and stop smoking is a must.
Although no one can predict SCA, and therefore no one can be sure of avoiding it, however, there are new technologies that doctors have turned to to help those at risk of cardiac arrest. Doctors may recommend specialized implants that work like a micro defibrillator attached inside the skin, such as the Subcutaneous Implantable Defibrillator (S-ICD).
No technology on our horizon can cure heart defects, especially something as permanent as an ACS, but new technologies have made the problems manageable. The most important thing we can do is to keep our loved ones safe is to provide them with appropriate first aid until help arrives.
(Dr. Rajesh Sharma, Senior Cardiologist, Saroj Super Specialty Hospital & Saroj Medical Institute Rohini0
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