Health In Focus
  • In cardiac arrests, the heart stops beating abruptly, causing a sudden loss of blood flow to the rest of the body.
  • CPR or chest compressions must be administered immediately after a cardiac arrest
  • More knowledge and awareness about the condition is needed in India.

Cardiac arrests have been on the rise in India for a few years now; more important to note is the increase in the number of younger people suffering from it.

Recently, we lost prominent personalities like former Chief Minister of Tamilnadu J. Jayalalitha and late Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to this fatal condition. However, awareness about what happens during a cardiac arrest or what to do when someone succumbs to it, has still not caught on in India. The steps that we take right after a cardiac arrest occurs, decides if the person will live or die.
Indians are on the Brink of Cardiac Emergency

Sudden cardiac death can occur within minutes of a cardiac arrest, if it is not managed immediately. Survival depends on providing immediate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), using a defibrillator to give an electric shock or just giving chest compressions.

Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops pumping or contracting abruptly. A series of events follow quickly - blood supply from the heart to the brain and vital organs get reduced, there is a loss of heart function, breathing stops and the person becomes unconscious.

According to statistics, more than eighty percent of cardiac arrests take place outside of a hospital - either at work, on the road or at home. Survival rate drops by seven percent with every minute of delay in not performing CPR. Hence, it is vital to provide effective CPR to improve chances of survival before medical help arrives. Learning the basics of CPR can help save lives at home and at public places.

What makes our heart flutter?

During our lifetime, our heart beats non-stop, pumping blood continuously. Even when we suffer a heart attack, the pumping of blood does not stop.

When there is a change in our regular heartbeat, it is known as arrhythmia Other names for arrhythmias are irregular heartbeats, fluttering, and palpitations. A disruption in the flow of the electrical impulses through the heart causes arrhythmias. The heart ends up beating either slowly or fast or irregularly.

When a person suffers from arrhythmia or palpitations of the heart for a prolonged time, they are at very high risk of cardiac arrest. Arrhythmias are the leading risk factors for cardiac arrests.

Risk factors other than arrhythmias for cardiac arrest

  • Medical conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and high blood cholesterol
  • Lifestyle factors like obesity, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and drinking

Secondary risk factors

  • Previous episodes of cardiac arrests or heart attacks
  • Family history of cardiac arrests or other heart disorders like heart rhythm disorders, congenital heart defects, heart failure and cardiomyopathy
  • Old age
  • Gender - men have three times a lifetime risk than women below the age of 85
  • Electric shock
  • Use of illegal drugs (cocaine or amphetamines)
  • Imbalance of essential nutrients like potassium or magnesium
  • Trauma to the chest as a result of a direct blow to the area over the heart. This is called commotio cordis and must occur at a critical time during the heartbeat cycle to cause the cardiac arrest

What are the Symptoms and Signs of Cardiac Arrest?

In case of a cardiac arrest, the individual becomes unconscious without warning and collapses suddenly.

The usual signs are -
  • Lack of palpable pulse (a condition where the pulse cannot be felt)
  • Abnormal or Absent Breathing
An even better way is to prevent a cardiac arrest by knowing the symptoms of an irregular heartbeat that could trigger it -
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Fluttering in the chest or irregular heartbeats under normal conditions
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Chest pain, palpitations and shortness of breath
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating, confusion
Hence, when these symptoms occur, it is imperative to take the patient immediately to a cardiac specialist who will determine whether the arrhythmia is dangerous or not. With due medications (that keep risk factors at bay), increased physical activity, certain dietary changes, periodic monitoring of pulse, and managing stress a person can continue to live with a healthy heart.

But in the event of a cardiac arrest outside a hospital in India, it is crucial that the lay public be educated on basic CPR to improve survival rates.

Reference :
  1. Guard yourself against sudden cardiac arrest: Beware of palpitations - (

Source: Medindia

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