Recently, we have come across a lot of news about numerous incidents of young people suffering and even dying from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Previously, most common in older adults, particularly those with heart disease, today it is being called the heart pandemic for the youth. Most young people who experience sudden cardiac arrest or death have underlying heart diseases, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and coronary artery anomalies being the most common. Further, according to recent American research, it has been observed that there is a 13% increase in sudden cardiac arrest among those aged the mid-30s to mid-40s.
What is cardiac arrest?
The heart is a muscular organ that pumps blood throughout the body. It does this by contracting and relaxing in a regular rhythm. When sudden cardiac arrest occurs, the heart’s rhythm becomes irregular, and the heart cannot pump blood effectively. This can lead to a lack of oxygen to the brain and other vital organs, causing them to fail. Sudden cardiac arrest is a medical emergency that occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating. It can happen to anyone, at any time, and without a warning. It is a leading cause of death worldwide and can be fatal if not treated immediately.
There are several underlying causes of sudden cardiac arrest. The most common cause is an underlying heart condition, such as coronary artery disease, heart valve problems, or an inherited heart condition. Other causes include electrical abnormalities in the heart, drug or alcohol abuse, and trauma to the chest.
To live a healthier life, experts recommend people rule out these 5 ‘S’ from their lifestyle – Smoking, Salt, Spirit (liquor), Sedentary lifestyle, and Stress.
1. Smoking: Smoking is one of the most significant health hazards and causes a range of illnesses, including lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke. The chemicals in cigarette smoke can also damage the body’s immune system and increase the risk of infections. There are various methods to help you quit smoking, including nicotine patches, gum, or lozenges, or you can seek the help of a medical professional.
2. Salt: Consuming too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association recommends that adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day, which is roughly equivalent to one teaspoon of salt. Reducing your salt intake can be as simple as reading food labels and avoiding processed or pre-packaged foods, which tend to be high in sodium.
3. Spirit (liquor): Alcohol consumption can lead to a range of health problems, including liver disease, high blood pressure, and increased risk of some cancers. Limiting alcohol consumption is essential to maintain good health. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends that men have no more than two drinks per day, and women have no more than one drink per day. If you find it challenging to limit your alcohol intake, seek the help of a medical professional or a support group.
4. Sedentary lifestyle: A sedentary lifestyle, which involves prolonged periods of sitting or lying down, can lead to a range of health problems, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. It’s essential to get regular exercise to maintain good health. The American Heart Association recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. You can incorporate physical activity into your daily routine by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking or cycling to work, or participating in sports or fitness classes.
5. Stress: Chronic stress can have a negative impact on your physical and mental health. It can lead to anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and heart disease. It’s essential to manage stress through relaxation techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga. You can also seek the help of a mental health professional to help you manage stress.
With this, people must also ensure enough and consistent Sleep. For adults, the optimum duration of sound sleep is 7-9 hours regularly whereas a child aged 5-6 years might require 12-14 hours.
Signs and Symptoms
Have you recently experienced shortness of breath, chest discomfort, irregular heart palpitations, a sudden feeling of weakness, or light-headedness leading to unconsciousness? If yes, then you must consult a cardiologist to rule out any heart-related issues. Especially, people who have a family history of heart disease and indulge in incessant smoking, drugs, drinking too much alcohol, and obesity are more likely to develop heart-related ailments.
Responding to a cardiac arrest
With these rising cases of SCA, it is important to understand, recognize and know how to respond to a cardiac arrest. A sudden cardiac arrest occurs because of erratic heartbeats triggered by an electrical malfunction that stops the heart from pumping blood to the body. Since it can lead to the death of a person if not intervened, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) must be performed immediately. Additionally, if one has access to an automated external defibrillator (AED), it should be used as it can greatly improve the chances of survival as it immediately restarts heart function.
1. Early recognition and activation of emergency medical services (EMS)
2. Immediate CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) can help sustain the blood flow to vital organs and increase the chances of survival
3. Use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) to deliver an electric shock to restore the heart’s rhythm
4. Medications to help restore the heart’s rhythm and improve blood flow
5. Surgical procedures, such as implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), to manage underlying heart conditions and reduce the risk of sudden cardiac arrest
Prevention of sudden cardiac arrest is key to reduce the risk of this life-threatening event. Early recognition, prompt treatment, and adherence to preventive measures are crucial to improving outcomes and saving lives. It is essential to seek medical attention immediately if you are at risk of or have any underlying heart conditions.
The author is the Senior Consultant Cardiologist, Holy Family Hospital, New Delhi. Views expressed are personal.
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