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Heart Attack vs. Sudden Cardiac Arrest: Understanding the Difference

Awake or Not Awake. That is the Question.

October is National Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month. Understanding the difference between heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest could help save lives. One way to understand the difference between the two conditions is this distinction: The heart attack victim is awake and the heart is beating. In contrast, the sudden cardiac arrest victim is not awake and the heart is not beating. To survive sudden cardiac arrest, the victim needs immediate CPR and treatment with a defibrillator. [1]

Sudden unexpected cardiac arrest is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. [2], affecting 326,200 people each year, including 6,000 youth [3]. On average, about 10 percent of victims survive, though nearly 40 percent survive when bystanders call 911, start CPR, and use automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, before emergency medical services (EMS) arrives at the scene. [4] 

Some things most bystanders don’t know about CPR…and why you need an AED in your home.

A heart attack is not the same thing as a cardiac arrest. Heart attack victims normally are able to talk and many are in pain. Cardiac arrest victims are non-responsive, clinically dead, and are not breathing normally – even though they might be gasping.

CPR is not used on heart attack victims. CPR is only used on SCA victims.

CPR does not re-start hearts – It tries to keep the heart muscle and brain alive, and it delays the transition from a shockable rhythm to a non-shockable one. This transition drops your chance of survival seven-fold. It takes an AED to re-start the heart, and sooner is a lot better!

Eighty-five percent of all cardiac arrests occur in a private residence. The witness, if there is one, is usually about the same age as the victim. Heel Compression quadruples the number of people who can perform guideline-compliant chest compression ("GC3’s") for ten minutes.

#HeartBucketList #ImpactEveryday

My next #heartbucketlist goal is out and it's AMAAAAZING! I'm looking for a few young women who want to spread the word about #heartability and make an #impacteveryday.

Join me May 30th, 2016 in Interlaken Switzerland, as I hike the Hardergrat Trail. Hardergrat is one of the most beautiful ridge lines in the world and I chose it for my #heartbucketlist goal because it truly elevates your senses to whole new levels. I've always said in order to take care of your body you have to challenge yourself and all your senses. This hike truly captures that challenge. And with a group of extraodinary women who want to feel their own heart beat in a whole new way while making an impact on the hearts of millions of other young women, this is THE trip.

PLEASE SHARE with friends and family. And for more info on what I am planning, follow the updates at: http://www.heartability.org/impacteveryday/

Why We Do What We Do

Someone recently wrote to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation and asked us why we do what we do. Why do we work so hard to raise awareness about sudden cardiac arrest and help save lives? Why don’t we just accept the concept of letting people die naturally when it is their time?

This question is thought-provoking, but troubling. Yes, sudden cardiac death may be a painless way to go. Still, victims could have many years ahead of them to enjoy their families and other loved ones. And, we suspect, they would prefer to be with them on earth for a much longer time.

Just think of the lifetime events afforded to survivors…getting to see a son’s college graduation, a daughter’s wedding, the birth of a grandchild, and traveling to new destinations.

Learn it Young and Remember it Forever

An ad was created by a Cape Town agency, Not Norm for Scouts South Africa (SSA), the biggest youth organization in South Africa. The group teaches children and young adults "leadership abilities, teamwork, self-motivation, commitment, perseverance, environmental and cultural awareness and strong values," among other things, according to their website. The powerful ad is set to the sounds of an all-encompassing ocean, while on the shore, an empty chair and a book move with a quiet breeze. There's no one else around, sans the two people in the water. Then, a faint high note sounds in the background, intensifying the video as a young boy, dressed in full clothing, carries a girl in a swimsuit out from the water.

Using his instincts, the boy performs CPR on the girl. And suddenly, the video cuts ahead to the boy, all grown up...

...To reveal that this scene, in fact, was between father and daughter.

Survivors, Share Your Selfies!

September 29th is World Heart Day. October is National Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month. If you are a survivor of cardiac arrest, please consider sharing a photo of yourself holding the attached 8.5 x 11 inch sign, by either:

Please contact your legislators today

Your help is needed today to save the federally-funded Rural and Community Access to Emergency Devices Program. Designed to save lives from cardiac arrest, this program is in jeopardy of being terminated. The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee proposes to end this life-saving program, but the U.S. House Appropriations Committee recommends $4.5 million for this initiative. Soon U.S. Members of Congress will work to resolve differences in the Senate and House health funding bills. So please send an e-mail to your U.S. legislators, urging them to include the House Appropriations Committee’s funding level of $4.5 million for this program in the final 2016 health appropriation bill. Funding for the Rural and Community Access to Emergency Devices Program is used to buy automated external defibrillators in bulk, place AEDs in public rural areas where cardiac arrest is likely to occur, and train first responders and lay rescuers in their use.

Why it is so important to begin chest compression immediately and not stop

Often newspapers and magazines make a statement that implies that the probability of surviving a cardiac arrest is a x% per minute declining ramp. This, it turns out, is an oversimplification.

In many cases it's more accurate to think of it as three steps of decreasing survival probability:

The starting point is just before the arrest, and your chance of living through the day is essentially 100%.
The first step down is frequently a drop down to ~28% chance of surviving.
The second step down drops your chance of surviving to a little less than 5%
The third step down drops that number to 0%.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest

On July 3, 2015, I suffered SCA while visiting family in Murrysville, PA. My husband and mother in law performed CPR on me until the paramedics arrived. They resuscitated me and life flighted me to UPMC Presbyterian. While there, a defibrillator (S-ICD) was implanted. I am receiving treatment for my injuries through a cardiologist and a neurologist. The cause of my SCA is still unknown.

The Importance Of Beginning Chest Compressions As Early As Possible

One doesn't have to read much about CPR for Cardiac Arrest victims to encounter the assertion that the probability of survival decreases about 10 percent per minute. Sometime other numbers are used.

This, it turns out, is an oversimplification.

One common sequence seen in sudden cardiac arrests is:
1. Normal sinus rhythm[doesn't need to be treated], followed by...
2. Supraventricular tachycardia [a shockable rhythm], followed by...
3. Ventricular fibrillation [a shockable rhythm], followed by...
4. Asystole [a non-shockable rhythm]

From Chan, McNally et al (DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.114.009711) we know that 27.9% of victims in shockable rhythms survive and 4.4% of victims in non-shockable rhythms survive.

Because you as a bystander do not have a heart monitor, you cannot know what the victim's rhythm is. But you do know that chest compression can delay the transition from a shockable rhythm to an unshockable rhythm.

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Mission & Vision

The mission of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) Foundation is to prevent death and disability from sudden cardiac arrest. The vision of the SCA Foundation is to increase awareness about sudden cardiac arrest and influence attitudinal and behavioral changes that will reduce mortality and morbidity from SCA.

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The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation would like to hear from you! If you have questions or comments — Contact Us!

877-722-8641

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