With the sudden unbelievable passing away of Stephen Keshi, Amodu Shuaibu due to cardiac or heart related causes, we are now all asking what the risk of suddenly dying from cardiac arrest at one’s prime.
Sudden cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack. Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is not the same as a heart attack. A heart attack (also called myocardial infarction, or MI) occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart is reduced or completely blocked, resulting in damage or death of part of the heart muscle. During a heart attack, a victim may be conscious and can complain about symptoms they experience. The person may be awake and the heart is still beating.
Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death for adults over the age of 40. According to a report in the U.S., about 326,200 people experience out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest, and only about 10% survive. SCA is the leading cause of death among adults age 40 and older worldwide. The number of people who die annually from SCA is about the same as the combined total number of people who die from Alzheimer’s disease, assault with firearms, breast cancer, cervical cancer, colorectal cancer, diabetes, HIV, house fires, motor vehicle accidents, prostate cancer, and suicides.
Ventricular fibrillation (v-fib) is the most common reason for sudden cardiac arrest deaths. The lower chambers of the heart (ventricles) quiver which results in the heart pumping little to no blood. The person passes out, and can die within minutes if the v-fib is not treated immediately. In contrast, in a sudden cardiac arrest, there is an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes it to suddenly stop beating. The victim will suddenly lose consciousness. In an SCA, the person is not awake, and the heart has stopped beating.
A heart attack may cause damage to the heart that leads to cardiac arrest, but they are not the same. Sudden cardiac arrest means the heart has stopped beating. Sudden cardiac arrest is a life-threatening condition that results in death in 9 out of 10 cases. It is caused by an electrical malfunction in the heart, called ventricular fibrillation. This abnormality acts like a “short circuit” within the heart, causing it to suddenly stop beating.
Sudden cardiac arrest is subtle, and bystanders will usually notice what has occurred. It has noticeable symptoms, a person having an SCA will suddenly lose consciousness (faint) and will appear lifeless, except for making “gasping” sounds or movements, and the person will have no perceptible pulse or heartbeat. In some cases, victims can experience seizures (shaking of the arms and legs) for 10 to 20 seconds.
A little Story
This story was sent on Whatsapp, the author is unknown but will serve a very useful purpose of explaining what we all go through and the risk we face:
“I am a high blood pressure patient,
I know in Africa we don’t like to talk about illnesses, but knowledge saves lives. I was first diagnosed in 2012 and I was initially in denial and said it was some kind of fluke when the doctor told me I would probably have to take my medication for the rest of my life.
i take my medication daily and also own a blood pressure reader which I use to monitor myself. I also know that when I exercise regularly, my blood pressure normalizes. I have not being faithful with my exercise routine because this last year has being exceedingly tedious for me.
Without mincing words these are perhaps the most challenging times of my life and I give myself the excuse that I have so much to do and the pressure of bills and demands that I have put exercise in a back corner of my schedules. I however do religiously take my medication and tell myself. “Once I am in a better place with my business I will resume my exercise regime”. I have also not being checking my blood pressure regularly.
This morning when I read about the passing of Shuaibu Amodu. I learnt he was a blood pressure patient, I gathered last night when he complained of a chest pain his blood pressure was 140/100. So reluctantly this morning, I picked up the blood pressure reader, strapped it on my arm and sought to take my first measurement in weeks. It was alarming, 150/105. I immediately doubled my dose of my medication as advised by my physician and I have decided to no longer let the weight of my challenges send me to an early grave. I have put off my main phone all day so I can have some peace.
I am currently lounging in my neighborhood pool with my daughters taking it easy, I will resume my exercise regime on Monday. I don’t really eat much, but I will pay attention to what I eat as well. I don’t drink enough to give me a health problem so on that ground i am good. My major issue is the stress of business and the financial burden of having to uproot my life and living in a new place. I had to start my business from scratch over here and 3 straight years of paying bills with limited income. But I realize,if I stress myself to death, I would only make life more difficult for my dependents. So from now on my HEALTH becomes number one. I am confident my business will get itself on a stroll at the right time, I have done it before so I can do it all over again.
My advise to all of you my friends particularly those of us on the wrong side of middle age, we need to take better care of our bodies. There is nothing like SUDDEN DEATH, mostly these are manifestations of symptoms we have long ignored and bad habits we have formed over the years. I am getting my health back and I would be more physically and mentally prepared to deal with all of life’s challenges. How about you? High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, High Cholesterol and such diseases can be managed effectively and we can still live full healthy and long lives for our kids and loved ones.“
Can sudden cardiac arrest be prevented?
Death is best treated by prevention. Most sudden death is associated with heart disease, so the at-risk population remains males older than 40 years of age who smoke, have high blood pressure, and diabetes (the risk factors for heart attack). Other risks include syncope (fainting or loss of consciousness) and known heart disease.
Syncope, or loss of consciousness, is a significant risk factor for sudden death. While some reasons for passing out are benign, there is always a concern that the reason was an abnormal heart rhythm that subsequently spontaneously corrected. The fear is that the next episode will be a sudden cardiac arrest. Depending on the healthcare provider’s suspicion based on the patient’s history, physical examination, laboratory tests, and EKG, the healthcare practitioner may recommend inpatient or outpatient heart monitoring to try to find a clue as to whether the passing out was due to a deadly heart rhythm. Unfortunately, the potentially suspect rhythm may not recur and depending on the situation, prolonged outpatient monitoring lasting weeks and months may be necessary. Use of electrophysiologic testing may help identify high risk patients (the electrical pathways are mapped using techniques similar to heart catheterization).
In people with symptoms of chest pain, aside from making the diagnosis, monitoring both the heart rate and rhythm are emphasized. The purpose of watching people with chest pain in a hospital setting is to prevent sudden cardiac arrest.
Using implantable defibrillators in high risk patients, especially those with markedly decreased ejection fractions can reduce the incidence of sudden cardiac arrest. These devices are placed under the skin in the chest wall and have wires that are attached to the heart itself. When they detect ventricular fibrillation, a shock is automatically delivered to the heart, restoring a heart beat and averting sudden death.
What is the prognosis for sudden cardiac arrest?
The frequency of sudden cardiac arrest is related to the frequency of coronary artery disease. If public health initiatives work to decrease risk the factors for heart disease, the risk for sudden death should decrease as well. In the adolescent population, increased awareness of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and appropriate screening may decrease the frequency of sudden death.
Public education and widespread availability of AEDs will increase survival.