About 1,000 Americans suffer sudden cardiac arrest every day, a catastrophic event that is almost always fatal. The most common cause is a heart attack which sets off an electrical storm within the heart, halting the heart’s ability to pump blood to the heart, to the brain and to the rest of the body. Unless the heart is shocked back into rhythm promptly, death occurs within minutes.
Until recently, physicians believed these events occurred without warning. But a recent study shows that at least half of patients that experience cardiac arrest have symptoms in the 24 hours prior to the event.
The most common symptoms were chest pain and shortness of breath. More than 80% of people who experienced these symptoms ignored them, and unfortunately that had a big impact on their outcomes. Those who called 911 had a 32% survival rate, compared to only 6% for those who did not seek immediate help.
So how do you know when to seek medical attention? We all get aches and pains, sometimes in the chest. And if we exert ourselves enough, we will eventually get short of breath.
If your symptoms are new or unusual, or if they have no good explanation, don’t ignore them. Call your doctor or seek emergency room or urgent care evaluation. The worst thing that could happen is they send you home. And that’s hardly a bad outcome.
Focus on prevention. Cardiac arrest may be a “sudden” event, but the underlying cause is chronic. Eliminate risk factors for heart disease and your chance of experiencing a sudden cardiac arrest will plummet. Remember, half of the risk factors are diet related. Just another reason why eating right rewards you with a long and healthy life.