Overview

Cardiac arrest is a serious heart condition. The word arrest means to stop or bring to a haltIn cardiac arrest, the heart ceases to beat. It’s also known as sudden cardiac death.

Your heartbeat is controlled by electrical impulses. When these impulses change pattern, the heartbeat becomes irregular. This is also known as an arrhythmia. Some arrhythmias are slow, others are rapid. Cardiac arrest occurs when the rhythm of the heart stops.

Cardiac arrest is an extremely serious health issue. The Institute of Medicine reports that every year, more than half a million people experience cardiac arrest in the United States. The condition can cause death or disability. If you or someone you’re with is experiencing symptoms of cardiac arrest, seek emergency health assistance immediately. It can be fatal. Immediate response and treatment can save a life.

A number of factors can cause sudden cardiac arrest. Two of the most common are ventricular and atrial fibrillation.

Ventricular Fibrillation

Your heart has four chambers. The two lower chambers are the ventricles. In ventricular fibrillation, these chambers quiver out of control. This causes the heart’s rhythm to change dramatically. The ventricles begin to pump inefficiently, which severely decreases the amount of blood pumped through the body. In some cases, the circulation of blood stops completely. This may lead to sudden cardiac death.

The most frequent cause of cardiac arrest is ventricular fibrillation.

Atrial Fibrillation

The heart can also stop beating efficiently after an arrhythmia in the upper chambers. These chambers are known as the atria.

Atrial fibrillation begins when the sinoatrial (SA) node doesn’t send out the correct electrical impulses. Your SA node is located in the right atrium. It regulates how quickly the heart pumps blood. When the electrical impulse goes into atrial fibrillation, the ventricles can’t pump blood out to the body efficiently.

Certain heart conditions and health factors can increase your risk of cardiac arrest.

Coronary Heart Disease

This type of heart disease begins in the coronary arteries. These arteries supply the heart muscle itself. When they become blocked, your heart does not receive blood. It may stop working properly.

Large Heart

Having an abnormally large heart places you at increased risk for cardiac arrest. A large heart may not beat correctly. The muscle may also be more prone to damage.

Irregular Heart Valves

Valve disease can make heart valves leaky or narrower. This means blood circulating through the heart either overloads the chambers with blood or does not fill them to capacity. The chambers may become weakened or enlarged.

Congenital Heart Disease

Some people are born with heart damage. This is known as a congenital heart problem. Sudden cardiac arrest may occur in children who were born with a serious heart problem.

Electrical Impulse Problems

Problems with your heart’s electrical system can increase your risk of sudden cardiac death. These problems are known as primary heart rhythm abnormalities.

Other risk factors for cardiac arrest include:

  • smoking
  • sedentary lifestyle
  • high blood pressure
  • obesity
  • family history of heart disease
  • history of a previous heart attack
  • age over 45 for men, or over 55 for women
  • male gender
  • substance abuse
  • low potassium or magnesium
JPeei Clinic