When your heart stops—facts about sudden cardiac arrest - Ep. 61

February 6, 2023
Categories: Physical health
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Sudden cardiac arrest was thrust into the national spotlight in January, when Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field after a tackle.

Thankfully, the team’s medical staff began immediate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and restored his heartbeat, actions Hamlin’s doctors credited with saving his life.

As an elite athlete, is his situation unique?

Sudden cardiac arrest is a major public health problem. It’s a condition where the heart stops beating without warning and can lead to death in minutes if the person doesn’t get help right away.

Chances of survival are 10-15 percent when it happens outside of a hospital. Yet, early recognition and effective CPR can double or triple the chance of survival. CPR is, quite possibly, the most important skill a non-medical person should know.

Are there symptoms or warning signs of a cardiac arrest? Who is at risk?

In Episode 61, Dr. G and his guest Moeen Saleem, M.D., discuss the facts about cardiac arrest, why it’s vital that people learn how to recognize sudden cardiac arrest, how to provide effective CPR and how to use an Automatic External Defibrilator (AED).


Myths vs. Facts

“Survival from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) depends on immediate action by people nearby who recognize the life-threatening emergency and decide to help.” – Fact
Early recognition, CPR and calling for help can double or triple the chance of survival.

“Sudden cardiac arrest is rare.” – Myth
There are 350,000 sudden cardiac arrest events each year.

“When people have heart attacks, they are aware and their hearts are beating. When people have sudden cardiac arrest, they are not awake and their hearts are not beating.” – Fact
When people have a heart attack and are awake, they can feel the symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath and nausea. In cardiac arrest, people lose consciousness. They will not appear to be breathing and you cannot find a pulse.

“Sudden cardiac arrest only happens to the elderly.” – Myth
It’s more frequent in the elderly population, but there are conditions where younger people can be predisposed to it.

“Sudden cardiac arrest only happens to people with a history of heart problems.” – Myth
There are risk factors that make people prone to cardiac conditions, but there can be other causes of what appears to be a cardiac arrest such as stroke, aneurysm or blood clot that circulates into the lungs. 

“Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are lifesaving devices with visual and voice prompts that are designed for use by laypersons.” – Fact
You don’t need to be a trained medical professional to use an AED.

“AEDs can hurt people by shocking them inappropriately.” – Myth
When an AED is applied to a patient, it has automated messaging with clear instructions for safety and appropriate therapy for the patient.

“I could be sued for intervening with a sudden cardiac arrest patient.” – Myth
There’s a good Samaritan law that protects people who help those who appear to have had a cardiac arrest.

“If you live with someone who is at risk for sudden cardiac arrest, then it’s important that you be trained in CPR.” – Fact
It’s important for everyone to be trained in CPR. 


Listener healthy OH-YEAH!

“I’m trying not to feel guilty about taking breaks. They are good, beneficial, and if done properly can make the productive times more productive.” – T.M.

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