World Heart Day 2022: What Is Sudden Cardiac Death? How Can One Prevent It?

‘Sudden Cardiac Arrest' (SCA) as the name suggests - is where a patient is stable with a stable heart function an hour before the terminal event (namely Cardiac Arrest). 

Compared to Earlier where SCA was common over 70 years of age, in recent times, SCA is more commonly witnessed in the people of a younger age group.

The sudden stoppage of the heartbeat is due to disruption in the rate and rhythm of the electrical system of the heart, impairing the heart's ability to pump blood, which causes them to lose consciousness and their ability to breathe.

While a Heart attack makes the patient more vulnerable to SCD by disrupting the electrical system of the heart, cardiac arrest can also be caused by other cardiovascular conditions.

Congenital heart diseases (heart defects from birth), an enlarged heart, electrolyte disorders, improperly functioning valves in the heart, are additional heart conditions that may also increase the risk of SCA.

What distinguishes SCA from a heart attack?

Heart attack and SCA are two disorders that affect the heart differently but are used interchangeably. It is important to recognize the difference and take precautions.

A heart attack is a "blood circulation problem”. In a heart attack, a clogged artery stops oxygen-rich blood from getting to a specific area of the heart. SCA may occur after a heart attack.
World Heart Day 2022: What Is Sudden Cardiac Death? How Can One Prevent It?
World Heart Day 2022: What Is Sudden Cardiac Death? How Can One Prevent It?
In contrast, SCA is an ‘electrical problem' in which the heart stops beating and is unable to effectively pump blood throughout the body. SCA can affect people of all ages, including children and teenagers. However, it shows different symptoms depending on the age range.

What is the primary cause for SCA?

The primary cause of a SCA is when your heart's electrical system is not working correctly and the heart can beat too fast or too slow or it can beat irregularly.

Although the cause might not be obvious, SCA is commonly linked with coronary artery disease (CAD), a condition where cholesterol deposition in the arteries reduces the blood supply to the heart muscle, the factors that put you at risk of CAD can also put you at risk of SCA. It is known that, in addition to smoking and drinking, leading a sedentary lifestyle, lakh of Physical exercise, and other risk factors are also responsible for SCA.

The risks of declining heart health are increased by excessive alcohol use, smoking, stress, lack of exercise, obesity, diabetes, and an improper sleep cycle. Numerous lifestyle choices can harm the health of the heart, which leads to coronary artery disease (plaque formation in the arteries), stroke, and respiratory failure. Managing heart health requires adopting a healthy lifestyle and identifying psychological problems.

Congenital syndromes (occurring from birth) play an important part in SCA in athletes, where there may be a faulty electrical system if the heart or a fault in the heart muscle putting them at a high risk of SCA.

How can SCA be avoided?

Even though SCA poses a threat to life, it can be avoided to a large extent by leading a heart-healthy lifestyle, which lowers the chance of sudden death from SCA in general.

It is advised to routinely work out for thirty minutes to an hour, indulging in activities such as walking, yoga, cardio, zumba, running, and at least two strength-training sessions per week. Maintain a healthy, mineral-rich diet to keep your heart in good condition. Salt, processed sugar, and foods high in fat should also be avoided because they tend to raise the risk of cardiac arrest. Losing weight should be a component of your strategy for preventing cardiac arrest because obesity can be one of the main causes. Smoking is the most important risk factor for SCA and should be avoided. 

All athletes with a family history of SCA or athletes who feel giddy or feel their heart is abnormally racing all of a sudden, must visit a cardiologist and get a checkup done before exerting.

Due to innovations in medical technology for both diagnosis and treatment options for cardiac problems, therapies like pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) or subcutaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillator S-ICD help in the prevention of SCA caused due to an abnormal heart rhythm.

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