Sudden Cardiac Arrest: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Contributed by: Nancy Dixit


Our heart is one of the strongest organs in our body. Its main function is to pump oxygenated blood throughout the body. Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops working unexpectedly.

Did you know that 9 out of 10 people who go into cardiac arrest die outside the hospital – often within minutes?

In this article, we will discuss sudden cardiac arrest, its warning signs, causes and treatment.

What is cardiac arrest?

Cardiac arrest is also known as sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). It is a condition when the heart suddenly stops beating due to electrical disturbances in the heart which disrupts the pumping action, which restricts blood flow to the body.

It can cause a person to lose consciousness, become disabled, or die if not treated immediately.

Disagreement: Many cardiac disorders can be inherited including arrhythmia, congenital heart disease, cardiac arrest, high blood cholesterol etc.

In such situations, you may undergo genetic testing to determine if you have certain genes that may put you at risk of developing heart disease.

Cardiac arrest is a medical emergency.

If a loved one experiences symptoms of cardiac arrest such as chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath or sudden numbness, An ambulance can immediately

Every minute counts!

Did you know that around 10% of deaths in India are due to sudden cardiac arrest which is also the most common cause of death in the world?

Warning signs of cardiac arrest

Symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest can be immediate and life-threatening and may include:

  • sudden collapse
  • Unexplained odor
  • tiredness
  • dizziness
  • shortness of breath
  • nausea
  • chest pain
  • Heart palpitations (fast or pounding heartbeats)
  • Loss of consciousness

What causes cardiac arrest?

Cardiac arrest can be caused by various heart conditions. Some of the main causes of cardiac arrest include:

Arrhythmias and ventricular fibrillation

An arrhythmia occurs when the electrical signals in the heart lead to an abnormal heartbeat.

The most common life-threatening arrhythmia is ventricular fibrillation. This is a rapid heartbeat in the ventricles of the heart, which causes the heart to beat instead of pumping blood normally.

When this happens, your heart is unable to pump blood. Without treatment, you can die within minutes.

Enlarged heart (cardiomyopathy)

An unhealthy heart muscle can make you prone to sudden cardiac arrest, especially if you have heart failure.

Damage to your heart muscle can lead to heart valve disease, high blood pressure, or other heart conditions.

Coronary artery disease (CAD)

This type of heart disease occurs when the coronary arteries are narrowed and thickened by plaque blockage, which restricts blood flow to the heart.

If left untreated, coronary artery disease can lead to heart failure or arrhythmias, both of which can lead to cardiac arrest.

Electrical anomalies

Certain electrical abnormalities such as Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome and long QT syndrome can lead to sudden cardiac arrest in children and young adults.

Recreational drug use

Recreational drugs are chemicals that alter the user’s perception, feelings, and emotions and are taken not for medical purposes but for enjoyment or leisure.

The use of certain recreational drugs can cause sudden cardiac arrest, even in otherwise healthy people.

Other causes of cardiac arrest may include hemorrhage, valvular heart disease, lack of oxygen, and high levels of potassium and magnesium (which can cause arrhythmias).

Who is at risk of cardiac arrest?

Several lifestyle and genetic factors can increase the risk of cardiac arrest. They include the following:

  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Family history of heart disease or cardiac arrest
  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • obesity
  • smoking

However, some people may develop heart attacks without risk factors.

Did you know that cardiac arrest is more common in older men than women?

What are the treatment options available?

Treatment options include immediate treatment and long-term treatment.

Immediate treatment


Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a process of mouth-to-mouth breathing with chest compressions to produce cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It is necessary to immediately treat sudden cardiac arrest.


A defibrillator is a medical device that delivers a controlled electric shock to the heart to help it regain function and beat normally.

Long term treatment


For long-term treatment of arrhythmias, doctors may prescribe some antiarrhythmic drugs like beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, etc.


Labyrinth procedures, coronary angioplasty, bypass surgery, or corrective heart surgery may also be performed to repair and remove any blocks in the heart.

Life changes after a cardiac arrest

Choosing a healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to treat or prevent heart disease, such as:

  • Quit smoking and limit alcohol consumption
  • Try to reduce stress
  • Have a heart-healthy diet
  • Physical activity
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Try to get a good sleep
  • Get regular health checkups

last thought

Cardiac arrest is a serious medical condition. However, by taking the right medication and a healthy lifestyle, it can be managed. Consult a doctor from time to time to avoid any complications and effectively manage other health conditions.

Additionally, a genetic change (mutation) in a single gene can affect the likelihood of developing heart disease.

Sometimes, parents can inherit anxiety in their children’s genes.

To determine how at risk you may be for acquiring a hereditary heart disorder, DNA testing or genetic testing is the best option.

Genetic testing is a sophisticated predictive health tool that can confirm your predisposition to any type of treatment.

To reduce the risk of cardiac ailments and complications, you should also opt for regular preventive heart checkups.

These health tests can give you a comprehensive insight into your heart health, allowing you to take the necessary precautions to keep your heart healthy.

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