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Understanding Cardiac Arrest
Like heart attack, cardiac arrest affects the heart. Cardiac arrest happens when the electrical signals that make the heart pump go haywire. The heart rhythm becomes rapid or chaotic (or both) and the heart can’t pump blood.
What Causes Cardiac Arrest?
Sometimes a heart attack can cause cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest can also result from respiratory arrest (sudden inability to breathe), electrocution, drowning, choking or trauma. It also can occur without any known cause.
What Makes Cardiac Arrest So Dangerous?
Brain death and clinical death from cardiac arrest start to occur in just four to six minutes. A cardiac arrest victim’s chances of survival are reduced by 7 to 10 percent with every minute that passes without treatment.
Warning Signs of Cardiac Arrest
During cardiac arrest, a person becomes unresponsive and stops normal breathing. The victim loses his or her pulse or other signs of circulation.
Treat Cardiac Arrest
Effective cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can mean the difference between life and death. If you’re unsure of your CPR skills or have not been trained, Hands-Only CPR could be lifesaving options if you witness an adult suddenly collapse. Call 9-1-1 right away, and then push hard and fast in the center of the adult victim’s chest.
Note: An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a machine with a computer inside. The AED can recognize and tell the rescuer when a shock is needed. The shock eliminates the abnormal heart rhythm and allows the heart’s normal rhythm to resume. This process is called defibrillation.
Understanding Heart Attack
During a heart attack, blood flow to part of the heart muscle is greatly reduced or stopped. This happens because one or more of the coronary arteries are blocked by a blood clot or narrowed due to spasm. If the blood and oxygen are cut off for more than a few minutes, heart muscle cells suffer permanent injury and start to die. This is why responding quickly to warning signs is so important. Warning signs are your body’s way of telling you something’s wrong and you need help. Quick action means you can benefit from new drugs and treatments that can minimize heart damage. But time is critical. You must receive treatment as soon as possible. Getting help fast can save more of your heart muscle—and maybe your life!
Warning signs of Heart Attack
Sometimes, heart attack is sudden and intense. It looks like a “movie heart attack,” in which a person gasps clutches at his or her heart and drops to the ground. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often the person affected isn’t sure what’s wrong and may wait too long before getting help.
Here are other key signs:
Chest discomfort: Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest. It may last more than a few minutes. Or it might go away and come back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
Discomfort in other areas of the upper body: Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
Shortness of breath: This may occur with or without chest discomfort.
Other signs: These include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or chest discomfort. But women may be more likely to have some other common symptoms. These include shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
A stroke occurs when a blood vessel bringing oxygen and nutrients to the brain is blocked by a clot or burst. This blockage or rupture keeps part of the brain from getting the blood and oxygen it needs to function properly.
Without oxygen, the nerve cells in that area of the brain can’t work and die within minutes. Depending on the part of the brain affected, disability or death can result. That’s why a quick response to warning signs is so important.
Warning Signs of Stroke
Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
If any of these signs occur but last only a few minutes, the person may have had a “mini-stroke” called a transient ischemic attack (TIA). TIA’s often mean a full stroke will soon happen. Always consider them a medical emergency. Don’t ignore these warning signs!
When Stoke Happens: Take Action! A person having stroke symptoms may protest against going to the hospital. Denial is common. Don’t take “no” for an answer. Take prompt action. Time lost is brain lost.
What to do if You Suspect a Stroke
If you suspect a stroke or TIA, here are the most important things to remember:
Don’t ignore ANY of the signs of stroke, even if they go away! Not all warning signs occur in every stroke.
Check the time when the first symptoms start. You’ll be asked this important question later. It may help to write it down.
If you or someone with you has one or more stroke symptom that last more then a few minutes, don’t delay! Immediately call 9-1-1 or the EMS number. This way, an ambulance (ideally with advanced life support) can quickly be sent for you.
If you can’t access the EMS, immediately have someone drive you to the nearest hospital emergency room (or another medical facility with 24-hour life support).
If an adult collapses in front of you and is not breathing, you are their best, and probably their only chance to live.
By simply performing continuous chest compressions, you can double, or even triple their chance for survival.
Push yourself to help!