Common causes of cardiac arrest you need to know

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Cardiac arrest is a sudden, unexpected loss of heart function, breathing, and consciousness, typically resulting from an electrical disturbance in your heart that disrupts its pumping action.

It’s a serious medical emergency that, if not treated immediately, can lead to death. This review explores the common causes of cardiac arrest, shedding light on why it happens and how it can be prevented.

One of the primary causes of cardiac arrest is coronary heart disease. Often, the heart’s electrical system is disrupted by the damage caused by a heart attack, which occurs when the blood flow to part of the heart is blocked.

These blockages are usually the result of plaque—a mix of fat, cholesterol, and other substances—in the arteries. When parts of the heart muscle die during a heart attack, it increases the risk of cardiac arrest.

Research shows that the majority of cardiac arrests occurring outside the hospital are linked to pre-existing coronary heart disease.

Another significant factor is cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle that affects its size, shape, and structure. This condition can lead to arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats), which can escalate into a cardiac arrest if the heart starts to beat too fast or stops beating altogether.

Various studies, including those published in medical journals like the “Journal of the American College of Cardiology,” highlight how structural changes in the heart muscle can predispose individuals to dangerous arrhythmias that trigger cardiac arrest.

Electrolyte imbalances in the body can also cause cardiac arrest. Electrolytes such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium play crucial roles in conducting electrical impulses in the body. When these electrolytes are too high or too low, they can disrupt the heart’s rhythm.

A notable example is hyperkalemia (high potassium levels), which can make the heart’s muscle cells too excitable, leading to cardiac arrest.

Long QT syndrome and other inherited heart rhythm disorders are lesser-known but potent causes of cardiac arrest. These genetic conditions disrupt the heart’s electrical system and are often undetected until a sudden cardiac arrest occurs.

The Heart Rhythm Society provides resources and guidelines on how these conditions can be identified and managed to prevent cardiac arrest.

Substance abuse, particularly of drugs like cocaine and amphetamines, is another preventable cause of cardiac arrest.

These substances can have a stimulant effect on the heart, leading to high blood pressure and arrhythmic heartbeats, which can culminate in a cardiac arrest. Research indicates a clear link between illegal drug use and an increased risk of cardiac arrest.

Physical stress, such as intense physical activity, can trigger cardiac arrest in individuals with underlying heart conditions.

While regular moderate exercise is beneficial for heart health, extreme physical exertion can put a strain on the heart and might precipitate a cardiac arrest in susceptible individuals.

Preventive measures are key in reducing the risk of cardiac arrest. These include lifestyle changes such as eating a heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly, avoiding smoking, and managing stress.

Additionally, it’s important for individuals with heart disease or at risk of cardiac arrest to have regular check-ups and discuss their risk factors with their healthcare provider.

In conclusion, understanding the causes of cardiac arrest is crucial for prevention and preparedness. While some factors like genetic conditions cannot be changed, many causes related to lifestyle choices and health management can be modified.

Awareness and proactive management of heart health can significantly decrease the risk of experiencing a cardiac arrest, leading to healthier, longer lives.

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