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A Concise Dummies Guide on Cardiac Arrest

Updated on July 7, 2013
jpcmc profile image

I'm a dad, husband, and Christian first. The rest are just life's add-ons: an educator, administrator, learner, & development professional.

Is your heart healthy?
Is your heart healthy? | Source

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.

Your heart matters!
Your heart matters! | Source

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
  • Nausea
  • 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.

Learn and practice CPR
Learn and practice CPR | Source

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.

Immediate Treatment

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?

It pays to know!
It pays to know! | Source

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.

Healthy lifestyle is important to prevent cardiac arrest
Healthy lifestyle is important to prevent cardiac arrest | Source


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!

Do you know how to do basic first aid? Every bit of information can help you against some of the world's most deadly diseases and most common injuries. In fact, having the basic knowledge of first aid can be advantageous. The article Essential First Aid That Everyone Should Know lists down the essentails for you.

Do you know how to secure clean and safe drinking water? Another skill needed to survive during emergency and disaster situations is getting saf rinking water. The Methods to Purify Drinking Water on Camping Trips can be used even for disaster situations.

Do you know if you're at risk of hypetension? Many myths and fallacies revolve around hypertenion. Make sure you have the right information. This can save your life. The Tension of Hypertension: Unraveling Your the Silent Killer of Your Heart offers important information so you can fight hypertension.


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    • jpcmc profile imageAUTHOR

      JP Carlos 

      5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Hello lindacee,

      Having the proper training is very important. In our red Cross Chapter we even have a mass casualty incident simulation. Even though it's just a mock scenario adrenalin can shoot up. It pay to know how it really feels in such a situation. Keeping one's cool is essential.

      I'm glad you found the hub informative.

    • lindacee profile image


      5 years ago from Arizona

      Valuable information that may save lives! I need to sign up for a CPR class. It is important to know how to react in an emergency situation. Thanks for explaining what happens during cardiac arrest and how we can help before emergency medical personnel arrive.

    • jpcmc profile imageAUTHOR

      JP Carlos 

      5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Hi moonlake,

      recent trainings on CPR involves compression only maneuvers. For the lay person, this is easier since they don't have to worry about counting compressions. Many instructors teach the needed 100beats per minute by letting their students sing Staying Alive by the Bee Gees.

      Try to contact your local Red Cross chapter for the latest in CPR.

    • moonlake profile image


      5 years ago from America

      I took a class on CPR years ago but now don't know if I could remember all of it. Voted uP on your interesting hub.

    • jpcmc profile imageAUTHOR

      JP Carlos 

      6 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Hello RTalloni,

      I like it when readers leave meaningful comments.

    • RTalloni profile image


      6 years ago from the short journey

      Loads of good info in this hub and its comments. Glad to see it posted!

    • jpcmc profile imageAUTHOR

      JP Carlos 

      6 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      That's very true Amber. Every minute that passes without intervention can be detrimental for a stroke victim. Many First Aid and Basic life support suminars offer early detection trainings.

      The link you shared is really informative. F.A.S.T. can save lives. Thanks for this.

    • Amber Allen profile image

      Amber Allen 

      6 years ago

      Hi jpcmc

      Recognising the symptoms of stoke is also an extremely useful life skill that can be taught in just a couple of minutes perhaps at the same time as teaching CPR.

      Getting early treatment helps prevent further damage to the brain.


    • jpcmc profile imageAUTHOR

      JP Carlos 

      6 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Hi there Green Lotus,

      We had a simulation of a mass casualty incident during our Red Cross training. Eventhough it was just a simulation, it was easy to forget what you know. Constant practice and training is important to put CPR in automatic mode during an emergency.

    • jpcmc profile imageAUTHOR

      JP Carlos 

      6 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Hello kashmir56,

      The more we know the better we can protect our selves. Thanks for the vote up.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi jpcmc great valuable and useful information within this very well written hub .

      Vote up and more !!!

    • Green Lotus profile image


      6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks for this important reminder. You never know when you'll need to help someone. Practicing CPR is always better than just knowing the directions.

    • jpcmc profile imageAUTHOR

      JP Carlos 

      6 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Hello Redberry Sky,

      Basic first aid is really important. I just concluded our safety training in the office including first aid. Compaies must always include safety training in their curriculum.

    • jpcmc profile imageAUTHOR

      JP Carlos 

      6 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Hello conradofontanilla,

      Thanks for the additinal information. The more we know about this the better chances of surviving it.

    • jpcmc profile imageAUTHOR

      JP Carlos 

      6 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Thanks Jade0215,

      I hope the information here can save more lives.

    • jpcmc profile imageAUTHOR

      JP Carlos 

      6 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Hi Jackie Lynnley,

      It's really scary to have o witness something like this. Knowledge in CPR will be sufficient for the layman.

    • Redberry Sky profile image

      Redberry Sky 

      6 years ago

      Useful, necessary and lifesaving information, jpcmc. I learned first aid along with everyone I worked with a few years ago as part of a corporate drive to make sure everyone in the workplace knew the basics. Sadly I've forgotten a lot of it now, but this Hub will come in very useful when I re-learn - now that you've reminded me what an important thing it is to know.

    • conradofontanilla profile image


      6 years ago from Philippines

      A victim of cardiac arrest must be resuscitated in 6 minutes; that of heart attack must be resuscitated in 5 minutes. Cardiac arrest results from arrhythmia that involves conduction of impulses from the pacemaker. Sometimes transmission of impulses is delayed, or too fast, or lack of synchronization between the sinoatrial node impulse and the ventricular node. The causes of defects in the transmission should be addressed. One cause is lack of electrolytes. But there are causes that have not been explored. Free radicals might do damage on nerve fibers.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very informative, great job!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      6 years ago from The Beautiful South

      This would be a horrible thing to encounter. Too bad we can't all carry a couple of nitroglycerin's.


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