Community Health Watch: Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Download informative articles for community education


EMSWorld now offers Community Health Watch articles for use by your EMS agency. These short, pre-written, easy to use articles are intended to be educational for your local community members on a wide range of public safety and health issues, and may be branded for your use. Your organization is free to use this as a community column in your local newspaper, a letter to the editor, a press release or in any other way you see fit. Either copy the text below or download the attached Word document.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest Can Strike Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime

A grandmother collapses at home. A 40-year-old executive collapses in his office. A teenager collapses on the court during a high school basketball game.

None of these people has much in common, save for one thing: they all died of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). None of them had a previously diagnosed heart condition and there was no warning. They all simply collapsed when their hearts stopped beating.

SCA is not the same thing as a heart attack. In SCA, the heart suddenly ceases to function. It’s an “electrical problem” in which the heart is no longer able to pump blood to the rest of the body.

A heart attack, or myocardial infarction (MI), is a “plumbing problem” in which a blockage in a blood vessel interrupts the flow of blood to the heart causing an area of the heart muscle to die. While not the same thing, SCA may, however, occur in association with a heart attack.

SCA is the leading cause of death in the United States, claiming an estimated 325,000 lives each year. That’s nearly three times greater than the combined number of deaths from breast cancer, prostate cancer, automobile accidents and house fires. To put that into another perspective, SCA kills 1,000 people per day, or one person every two minutes.

It is estimated that 95% of victims of cardiac arrest die before they reach a hospital or other source of emergency help. A person’s chance of survival decreases by 10% for every minute blood isn’t flowing to their brain. After just four minutes permanent, irreversible brain damage can occur. After 10 minutes the person is likely dead.

It is critical that victims of SCA receive immediate medical attention. In cases where CPR is performed and an AED is used prior to paramedic arrival, the rate of survival increases from 5% to as much as 50%.

There are a variety of CPR certification courses in our area, including the following upcoming courses:

List upcoming CPR courses, dates and locations in your area, as well as information for how people can sign up.

Consider becoming certified in CPR and learning to use an AED. It may help save the life of someone you know.

Statistics courtesy of the Heart Rhythm Foundation, National Center for Early Defibrillation