Sudden Cardiac Death
What Should I Do If I Witness Sudden Cardiac Arrest?
If you witness someone experiencing sudden cardiac arrest, dial 911 or your local emergency personnel immediately and initiate CPR. If done properly, CPR can save a person’s life, as the procedure keeps blood and oxygen circulating through the body until help arrives.
If there is an AED available, the best chance of rescuing the person includes defibrillation with that device. The shorter the time until defibrillation, the greater the chance the person will survive. It is CPR plus defibrillation that saves a person.
After successful defibrillation, most people require hospital care to treat and prevent future cardiac problems.
Sudden Cardiac Death and Athletes
SCD occurs rarely in athletes, but when it does happen, it often affects us with shock and disbelief.
Cause: Many cases of SCD are related to undetected heart disease. In the younger population, SCD is often due to congenital heart defects, while in older athletes (35 years and older), the cause is more often related to coronary artery disease.
Prevalence: SCD in athletes is rare, but media coverage often makes it seem like it is more prevalent. In the younger population, most SCD occurs while playing team sports. It occurs in about one in 100,000 to one in 300,000 athletes, and more often in males. In older athletes (35 years and older), SCD occurs more often while running or jogging.
Screening: The American Heart Association recommends cardiovascular screening for high school and collegiate athletes and should include a complete and careful evaluation of the athlete’s personal and family history and a physical exam. Screening should be repeated every two years, with a history obtained every year. Men aged 40 and older and women aged 50 and older should also have a thorough examination and an exercise stress test and receive education about heart disease risk factors and symptoms. If heart problems are identified or suspected, the individual should be referred to a cardiologist for further evaluation and treatment guidelines before participating in sports.
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