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Cardiac arrest happens when the heart’s electric function stops working properly, leading to arrhythmia, reduced blood flow to the brain, and quick loss of consciousness. It is an emergency condition that strikes quickly and without warning and can be fatal without fast treatment. 

Each year, cardiac arrest leads to the loss of 475,000 lives across the United States. That number exceeds the number of deaths caused by several common kinds of cancer, respiratory diseases, HIV, automobile accidents, firearms, and household casualties. Understanding the risk factors of a cardiac arrest and knowing what to do when confronted with one can help you save lives. 

Read more to learn what causes cardiac arrest, how to recognize it, and how to respond to it.

Cardiac Arrest Risk Factors

Often, cardiac arrest occurs shortly after a heart attack or during recovery from one. Life-threatening arrhythmias usually follow pre-existing heart conditions, such as coronary artery disease (or a family history thereof), thickened or scarred heart muscle, or congenital heart disease. 

Other risk factors include:

  1. Electrical abnormalities

  2. Smoking

  3. Obesity

  4. Diabetes

  5. Cocaine or amphetamine use 

Signs of Cardiac Arrest

Signs of cardiac arrest include:

  1. Loss of consciousness and responsiveness 

  2. Not breathing or gasping for air

  3. Loss of pulse

  4. Weakness and dizziness

  5. Heart palpitations

  6. Chest pain

How to Respond

If you think a person near you may be suffering from cardiac arrest, every moment is critical. Dial 911 or your local emergency response number, or tell someone else nearby to do that while you start performing CPR.

Perform CPR by pushing two inches down on the center of the chest, aiming for a rate of 100 to 120 pushes per minute. Keep your arms straight and allow the chest to return to its original position after each push. 

Persist in doing this until the patient resumes breathing or until someone better equipped to handle cardiac emergencies gets there. If you are becoming too exhausted to continue doing chest compressions effectively, and if there is somebody else on the scene, you can enlist them to help you and switch every couple of minutes until further help arrives.

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How to Respond | HealthSoul

Using an automated external defibrillator (Aed)

If you have access to an automated external defibrillator (AED), follow its instructions for use. If someone else is there to help you, instruct them to bring the defibrillator, switch it on, and take out the pads. Do not stop performing CPR in the meantime. 

Remove the clothing or cut through it to expose the chest of the unconscious person. Stop CPR and attach the pads to the person’s chest. Follow the defibrillator’s verbal and visual prompts. 

How to make sure you are prepared to handle a cardiac arrest

Medical professionals can save many lives by getting their ACLS, PALS, and BLS certifications. These life support certification courses enable hospital staff and caregivers to recognize and respond to a cardiac arrest quickly and efficiently, whether the cardiac emergency occurs in or out of a hospital setting. 

The life support certification courses can be grouped into three categories:

  1. BLS (Basic Life Support): This course includes basic skills for resuscitation and keeping a patient alive in emergencies such as respiratory failure. A BLS certification course covers techniques such as chest compressions, automated breathing defibrillator (AED) use, and rescue breathing.

  2. ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support): A more advanced course than the BLS certification, ACLS covers clinical interventions used in cardiac emergencies such as cardiac arrest, myocardial infarction, and stroke.

  3. PALS (Pediatric Advanced Life Support): This life support certification course is specifically targeted at care providers who work with infants and children.

Apart from the obvious value of saving human lives, a life support certification contributes to a medical professional’s CV and the reputation of the hospital where they work. Online BLS, ACLS, and PALS courses are flexible and self-paced, so you can get your certification at your own pace, with minimal interruptions to your regular work. 

It is almost guaranteed that a life support certification course will help a medical professional save many lives in the course of their career—whether they are on duty or not. Since a cardiac arrest occurs unexpectedly, decisive action by a certified medical professional who happens to be nearby may make the difference between life and death for a patient, a random passerby, a friend, or a family member. Register today to pick the life support certification course that fits your specialization.

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