first aid

Am I at risk for cardiac arrest?

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Cardiac arrest might be due to any known heart condition. Most cases arise if the disrupted electrical system in the heart starts to malfunction, resulting to an erratic rhythm such as ventricular fibrillation or tachycardia. In some cases, it might be triggered by significant slowing of the heart rhythm.

Other causes of cardiac arrest

  • Scarring from a previous heart attack – a heart that is scarred or enlarged is susceptible to develop dangerous ventricular arrhythmias. The initial 6 months after a heart attack is a high-risk phase among those with atherosclerotic heart disease.
    Abrupt loss of responsiveness where there is no response when tapped on the shoulders or does not respond when asking if he/she is OK.
  • Heart medications – in some cases, various heart medications can set the point for arrhythmias that triggers sudden cardiac arrest. Unexpectedly, anti-arrhythmic drugs given to manage arrhythmias can oftentimes generate dangerous ventricular arrhythmias even at a prescribed dosage.
  • Thick heart muscle or cardiomyopathy – this might be a cause for cardiac arrest especially if the individual is diagnosed with heart failure.
  • Electrical irregularities – there are certain electrical irregularities such as long QT syndrome and Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome that can lead to cardiac arrest among young individuals and even children.
  • Abnormalities with the blood vessels – in uncommon cases, congenital abnormalities with the blood vessels specially in the aorta and coronary arteries might be present among young victims.
  • Recreational drug use – among individuals without organic heart disease, using recreational drugs is a possible cause

What are the signs?

  • Abrupt loss of responsiveness where there is no response when tapped on the shoulders or does not respond when asking if he/she is OK.
  • Individual is not breathing or only gasping

What should I do?

  • Tap and shout – check if the individual responds. You should tap him/her and ask loudly if he/she is okay. If the individual does not move, blink, speak or react in any way, he/she is not responding.
  • Shout for help – ask someone to call for emergency assistance and get an AED if available. If alone with an adult, call for emergency assistance and get an AED.
  • Assess the breathing – if the individual is not breathing or only gasping, perform CPR.
  • Performing CPR – drive down at least 2 inches at the rate of 100-120 pushes in a minute in the middle of the chest allowing it to return to its normal position after every push
  • Use an AED once available to turning it on and following the prompts.
  • Continue to perform chest compressions until the individual starts to breathe or move or someone with advanced training takes over.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on cardiac arrest is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize the indications, register for a first aid and CPR course with Red Deer First Aid.

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