A Concise Dummies Guide on Cardiac Arrest
Are you ready to face the situation?
What do you do when someone collapses in front of you with signs of cardiac arrest written all over it? Apart from fainting yourself, perhaps you’re one of those who will try to help out. Sure, not every country has a Good Samaritan Law to protect you but would you stay idle? Many will say they will call emergency services and that is good. But every minute that goes by can diminish the person’s chances of quality of life – even life itself. I’m not forcing anyone to step up and do Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) but if you can I hope that you do.
Although CPR has been well-discussed online (and offline as well) many still are not trained to do it. OK, officially I am encouraging everyone to learn basic life support and basic first aid. It is always best to know what to do when the situation calls for it.
Cardiac arrest is scary for both the victim and the people around. One way to gain confidence in the face of such a situation is to know what you you’re dealing with. So here’s the info minus the medical gobbledygook.
Cardiac Arrest. What is it?
Simply put, this is the cessation of normal blood circulation due to the heart’s failure to pump blood. Moreover, the heart pumps because of the electrical impulses that contracts and relaxes the heart muscles. Any hindrance to this electrical rhythm will affect blood flow. Performing proper chest compressions aid the blood to circulate. Likewise, it helps jumpstart the normal rhythm of the heart. Don’t confuse it with heart attack though. They’re two different medical conditions. However, heart attack can be a precursor.
We only do CPR to people who are experiencing this medical condition. Although this is already obvious, but allow me to explain why. The heart beats at a rhythmic pattern. Altering this pattern will disrupt proper blood flow. In fact, strikes to the chest whether intentional or unintentional can cause fibrillation and lead to arrest. Children who play sports are at risk. Melis Ann wrote about cardiac arrest in children due to trauma - Protecting Children Athletes From Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Youth Sports: Cause of Blunt Force Impact and Commotio Cordis. This is a good read especially for parents.
When the person shows symptoms of this cardiac arrest by all means help him! So what are the signs to watch out for? Here's a quick reminder:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of consciousness
- Faint or even no pulse
If you look closer, these signs can be attributed to other medical conditions. As such, when this happens do not take it lightly. It’s always prudent to prepare for the worst.
3 Conditions for Cardiac Arrest
1. Cardiovascular Collapse
Here, the heart is still beating however it is so weak that the blood is not circulating properly. Although there is proper rhythm the pressure is just too low.
2. Ventricular Fibrillation
Instead of having a coordinated thump thump, the hearts beats irregularly. As such, blood does not flow properly into the system. Fibrillation can either be the wrong pattern or wrong speed (usually faster than normal). In either case, blood circulation can be hampered.
3. Cardiac Standstill
With cardiac standstill, the heart completely stops beating. As you may guess, this is not good. No beating means no blood circulation.
The immediate response here is to provide CPR. The earlier this is done, the higher the chance for the person to survive. Defibrillation using controlled electrical shock also increases the survival rate. Automated External Defibrillator or AED is an indispensable tool during heart attacks. This portable electronic device allows quick diagnosis of arrhythmia and provides the appropriate charge to establish normal rhythm.
Do you know CPR?
How to know if you’re at risk
If you think only obese individuals are at risk, think again. Even if you have an active life, you may be a candidate. Instead of guessing whether you’re at risk or not, you should get tests done immediately. Here are some of the tests that you can get:
Electrocardiogram – This test records the electrical activity of the heart. Electrical pulses make the heart contract and relax at a rhythmic phase. Any inconsistencies in this patter can be detected through this test.
Echocardiogram– Another test that you can undergo is the echocardiogram. Commonly referred to as cardiac ECHO, it is a sonogram for the heart. Blood velocity and cardiac tissue assessment through cardiac ECHO provide a good idea of the heart’s health.
Of course knowing a little more can give you a certain level of confidence. Unfortunately it is not enough to help some in distress. So the best course of action is to get Basic Life Support training. Here, you are taught how to perform chest compressions and rescue breathing. Should you find yourself in an emergency situation such as this you can confidently aid in resuscitating the victim.
Preventing cardiac arrest requires a closer attention to one’s health. One’s lifestyle is a huge factor in assessing one’s risk. Suffice to say, eliminating all habits that put one at risk is beneficial to your heart.
- Exercise regularly
- Eat healthy
- Get enough rest
- Visit your doctor regularly
- Minimize stress
- Quit smoking
Remember that anything you do can and will affect your health. So choose your activities carefully and live healthier.
It’s never easy to face an emergency situation. Whether you’re the victim or the bystander, there will always be stress. But when you know what to do, you gain a fighting chance. So educate yourself. You will never know who or when someone may need your help. Surely, you want someone to help you when you’re the one in need.
It pays to know!
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