Is Sudden Cardiac Arrest a Heart Attack?

No. Sudden Cardiac Arrest is an “electrical” problem. It happens when the heart malfunctions and stops beating, or beats irregularly. According to the American Heart Association, “With its pumping action disrupted, the heart can’t pump blood to the brain, lungs and other organs. When this occurs, a person loses consciousness and has no pulse.”

A heart attack is a “plumbing” problem and happens when blood flow to a part of the heart muscle is blocked, usually by plaque in the coronary arteries. Sudden Cardiac Arrest can be a complication of a heart attack. Read more about the difference between a heart attack and Sudden Cardiac arrest here.

Doesn’t it only happen to older or unhealthy people?

No, some of the healthiest people have succumb to Sudden Cardiac Arrest. It does not discriminate and it is estimated that up to 20,000 youth are affected by Sudden Cardiac Arrest every year. Most people don’t realize they are at risk for Sudden Cardiac Arrest until it is too late. Find out if you are at risk.

Isn’t Sudden Cardiac Arrest rare?

No. In the United States alone, more than 356,000 people suffer from out-of-hospital Sudden Cardiac Arrest.

But I don’t have any heart problems, I don’t have to worry about it right?

The majority of Sudden Cardiac Arrests happen with no warning signs. You may think you don’t have any heart conditions, but the only way to know for sure is through a heart screening. A few other things that can cause Cardiac Arrest are heat stroke, recreational drug use, severe asthma attack, a blow to the chest, or drowning.

If someone passes out, should I call 911 and start CPR?

Starting CPR immediately doubles or triples a victim’s chance at survival, but if an AED is available, one should be used right away. To learn the most effective way to perform CPR and use an AED, you should take a training for certification.

Could I be sued for trying to help?

All 50 states have Good Samaritan Laws. According to the National Library of Medicine, “In legal terms, a good Samaritan is anyone who renders aid in an emergency to an injured or ill person.  Generally, if the victim is unconscious or unresponsive, a good Samaritan can help them on the grounds of implied consent.  If the person is conscious and can reasonably respond, a would-be rescuer should ask permission first. “

Read more here.

If a person’s heart has stopped, I can’t do anything right? I’m not a doctor.

You as a bystander may be a Sudden Cardiac Arrest victim’s best chance at survival. Anyone can do CPR and apply an AED. Each minute that passes for a Sudden Cardiac Arrest victim, the chance of survival decreases by 10% and EMS response times average about 7-14 minutes. Every minute counts. If you are not trained in CPR, the 911 operator will be able to walk you through it.

Every AED is nearly foolproof. After turning the device on, it will walk you through the steps of application and use. And, if the victim is not suffering from Sudden Cardiac Arrest, the AED will not shock them.

To feel more empowered in an emergency situation, we recommend getting CPR/AED trained.

Is Sudden Cardiac Arrest preventable?

The first step to help prevent Sudden Cardiac Arrest is to have a heart screening. These are easy, painless, and affordable. Many organizations exist to screen youth for free or at a discount. Find one here.

Also be aware of any risks associated with any medicine you may be taking, as well as any family history of heart disease. And of course, maintain a healthy lifestyle: exercise, don’t smoke, eat a healthy diet and manage your stress.


Did you learn something from this post? Subscribe to the blog below and have Sudden Cardiac Arrest education, updates, tips and more delivered right to your inbox!