Sudden Cardiac Arrest – Who’s at Risk?

Many people have the mistaken perception that sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is only a problem for male senior citizens. The reality is that SCA strikes both men and women, and although the average age of victims is 65, many victims are much younger with documented victims in their teens, twenties, thirties and forties.

In 1995, world-class figure skater Sergei Grinkov finished a practice routine, complained of dizziness, and collapsed. Within one hour, despite extensive resuscitation efforts, the apparently healthy 28-year-old skater died, a victim of SCA.

Each year, 350,000 people die from SCA in the United States. Sudden cardiac arrest can strike any part of the population at any time — adults, adolescents, and children; sedentary people and athletes; and both apparently healthy people and people with known heart conditions.

Not Dependent on Risk Factors

Because predicting heart attacks depends on well-known risk factors, it is worrisome to realize that predicting SCA is not so easy. (Only 30% of SCA’s occur as the result of a heart attack.)

Caused by Malfunctioning Electrical System

Most SCA’s are caused by a disturbance in the heart’s electrical system.

It is common knowledge that when electricity touches muscle it contracts. As an organ made primarily of muscle, the heart is no different–in fact, electrical impulses are responsible for telling the heart when and how quickly to contract, thus sending blood throughout our bodies. When this system malfunctions, lethal cardiac rhythms can occur.

Ventricular Fibrillation

The most common electrical disturbance leading to an SCA is ventricular fibrillation, which causes the heart to quite pumping effectively and to quiver chaotically instead.

It is possible for an otherwise healthy individual to experience this disturbance in the heart’s electrical system. Recent well-known victims have included accomplished athletes such as basketball player Hank Gathers of Loyola Marymount University.

A Wide-Spread Health Crisis

It is because SCA is so prevalent that PADL.ORG’s mission is so urgent. Predicting exactly who will have a sudden cardiac arrest is not the issue–being prepared is! The placement of AEDs along with responsible training will save lives. Join PADL.ORG today and help us get the word out!