Sudden cardiac death (also known as sudden cardiac arrest) occurs from a sudden loss of heart function where the heart stops (cardiac arrest) and blood stops circulating in the body. Unlike a heart attack where plaque build up in the coronary arteries blocks blood flow to the heart, in sudden cardiac death the heart stops due to a malfunction of the heart's electrical system causing the heart to suddenly beat very rapid and irregular. Ventricular fibrillation, an abnormal heart rhythm that occurs in the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles), is life-threatening and a leading cause of sudden cardiac death. Those with cardiovascular disease are at greater risk for sudden cardiac death, which can occur during or after a heart attack.
Sudden cardiac death can occur without signs or symptoms. Symptoms include:
- Rapid heartbeat
- A faint feeling
- Loss of consciousness
If you think you or someone you are with may be experiencing sudden cardiac death, it is important to call 9-1-1 immediately so that CPR can be performed right away. Without immediate treatment, death can occur within minutes.
MemorialCare offers CPR classes that provide instructions on how to use automated external defibrillator (AED), a device to deliver a quick electrical shock to the heart to return it to a normal heart rhythm.