Stay heart safe– October is sudden cardiac arrest awareness month

Medha Dutta Yadav
21 Oct 2022
Stay heart safe– October is sudden cardiac arrest awareness month

New Delhi: All of yesterday, a clipping of news with video footage was going viral of how a gym trainer died of a heart attack while sitting on a chair in Ghaziabad. The incident took place when the gym trainer, Adil, was working and suddenly he rolled backwards on the chair. The people present there took him to the hospital but he had already passed away. What is ironic is that Adil—the owner of the gym—was a fitness freak and used to exercise daily in the gym.

One needs to focus on the why and how of the incident, especially as October has been designated Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) Awareness Month.

For several reasons assessment of sudden cardiac death has been difficult to accomplish, the first of which being that a condition is a dynamic event that occurs in the general population in an unpredictable manner. Secondly, over the years, a standard definition for identifying the condition has not been employed in the large number of studies that have been conducted. The most accepted definition is sudden and unexpected death within an hour of symptom onset.

Dr Rakesh Rai Sapra, Director and Senior Consultant-Cardiology, Marengo QRG Hospital, Faridabad, says, “Coronary artery disease causes most cases (80 per cent) of sudden cardiac death. In people who are younger, congenital (since birth) heart defects or genetic abnormalities in their heart’s electrical system are often the cause. Other sudden cardiac death causes include cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease) like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, dilated cardiomyopathy and arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy.”

Sudden cardiac arrest is a life-threatening condition in which the heart comes to a standstill. It is caused by the abrupt loss of heart function, breathing and consciousness. The condition usually results from a problem with the heart’s electrical system, which disrupts the heart's pumping action and stops blood flow to the body. Sudden cardiac arrest isn’t the same as a heart attack when blood flow to a part of the heart is interrupted and the heart muscles in that particular area start dying. Around 3-5 per cent of heart attacks can lead to cardiac arrest.

However, a heart attack can sometimes trigger an electrical disturbance that leads to sudden cardiac arrest. The risk of cardiac arrest increases with age. It’s rare in people younger than 30. In younger people, the main risk factors are genetic arrhythmias, problems with the structure of the heart or coronary arteries, heart inflammation, and substance use. In older adults, the main risk factors are coronary heart disease and other heart conditions.

To minimise the risk, Sapra suggests getting routinely checked by simple tests such as ECG, Echocardiography and Treadmill tests especially if one suffers from risk factors for coronary artery diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, cholesterol abnormality, obesity and smoking.  Also, for those with a family history of sudden cardiac arrest or sudden death and suffering from exertion-related chest discomfort or breathing difficulty, the risk of sudden cardiac arrest is automatically increased.

To tackle the onset of trouble, the easiest steps to take are to avoid excessive or unaccustomed physical activity, reduce mental stress, quit smoking and keep blood pressure, blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels controlled.

So, how does one tackle the situation when there is an onset of sudden cardiac arrest, as immediate care can make a world of difference and reduce fatalities?

Dr Mukesh Goel, Senior Consultant Cardiothoracic and Heart and Lung Transplant Surgery of Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi, says, “Basic Life Support, or BLS, generally refers to the type of care that first responders, healthcare providers and public safety professionals provide to anyone who is experiencing cardiac arrest, respiratory distress or an obstructed airway. It requires knowledge and skills in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), using automated external defibrillators (AED) and relieving airway obstructions in patients of every age.”

During cardiac arrest, the heart cannot pump blood to the rest of the body, including the brain and lungs. Death can happen in minutes without treatment. CPR uses chest compressions to mimic how the heart pumps. These compressions help keep blood flowing throughout the body. It is a first-aid process to revive a person. It is an emergency lifesaving procedure performed if the heart stops beating, which can also happen due to heart attack, stroke, electrocution, drowning etc.

How to reduce the chances of sudden cardiac arrest?
(According to Dr Mukesh Goel)

Control the blood pressure

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease. It is important to get the blood pressure checked regularly - at least once a year for most adults, and more often if they have high blood pressure. Take steps, including lifestyle changes, to prevent or control high blood pressure.

Keep the cholesterol and triglyceride levels under control

High levels of cholesterol can clog arteries and raise the risk of coronary artery disease and heart attack. Lifestyle changes and medicines (if needed) can lower cholesterol. Triglycerides are another type of fat in the blood. High levels of triglycerides may also raise the risk of coronary artery disease, especially in women.

Stay at a healthy weight

Being overweight or having obesity can increase the risk of heart disease. This is mostly because they are linked to other heart disease risk factors, including high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Controlling the weight can lower these risks.

Eat a healthy diet

Try to limit saturated fats, foods high in sodium, and added sugars. Eat plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. The DASH diet is an example of an eating plan that can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, two things that can lower the risk of heart disease.

Get regular exercise

Exercise has many benefits, including strengthening the heart and improving circulation. It can also help maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

Limit alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure. It also adds extra calories, which may cause weight gain. Both of those raise the risk of heart disease. Men should have no more than two alcoholic drinks per day, and women should not have more than one.

Don’t smoke

Cigarette smoking raises blood pressure and results in a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.

Manage stress

Stress is linked to heart disease in many ways. It can raise blood pressure. Extreme stress can be a trigger for a heart attack. Also, some common ways of coping with stress, such as overeating, heavy drinking, and smoking, are bad for the heart. Some ways to help manage stress include exercise, listening to music, focusing on something calm or peaceful, and meditating.

Manage diabetes

Having diabetes doubles the risk of diabetic heart disease.

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