Posted on 10/28/2021

Think Halloween is scary? Consider Sudden Cardiac Arrest. Unlike many other medical conditions, it shows up suddenly and unexpectedly. More often than not, it is deadly. But anyone can help save a life by following three simple steps: Call, Push, Shock, according to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation.

It’s the season to talk about ghosts, goblins, and things that go bump in the night. But, there are real-life events that can have a much more detrimental effect on your health. Consider Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). Unlike many other medical conditions, it shows up suddenly and unexpectedly. More often than not, it is deadly.

In fact, SCA is a leading cause of death in the U.S., affecting about 1,000 people every day. It lurks in homes, offices, classrooms, and sports fields, just waiting for its prey. On average, only one in 10 victims survives.

During October alone—Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month—nearly 30,000 unsuspecting victims will suffer Sudden Cardiac Arrest, a life-threatening emergency that occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating. When SCA happens, the person collapses and doesn’t respond or breathe normally. They may gasp or shake as if having a seizure. SCA leads to death in minutes if the person doesn’t get help right away. Survival depends on people nearby calling 911, starting CPR, and using an automated external defibrillator, or AED, (if available) as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, only four in 10 victims receive bystander CPR and only one in 10 is treated with an AED before EMS arrives at the scene. In the words of Mitchell Brown, former Director of Public Safety for Columbus, Ohio, “Even if EMS arrives at the scene within an average of seven minutes, in most cases the victim’s fate is determined before paramedics arrive.”

Why don’t more people understand and apply these fundamental lifesaving skills? Seven common myths may be barriers to understanding and action.

Myth No. 1: SCA is rare. Fact: The number of people who die from SCA every day is equivalent to the number who would die if two jet planes crashed every day and killed nearly everyone on board.

Myth: No. 2: SCA is the same as a heart attack. Fact: When people have heart attacks, they are awake, and their hearts are beating. When people have SCA, they are not awake, and their hearts are not beating. Heart attacks can lead to SCA, but there also are many other causes.

Myth No. 3: SCA only happens to the elderly. Fact: SCA happens to people of all ages, including 23,000 youth each year.

Myth No. 4: SCA only happens to people with a history of heart problems. Fact: SCA is often the first indication of a heart problem.

Myth No. 5: Victims are better off waiting for professional help to arrive. Fact: Immediate bystander action often means the difference between life and death.

Myth No. 6: Only trained personnel are allowed to use AEDs. Fact: AEDs are lifesaving devices with visual and voice prompts that are designed for use by laypersons.

Myth No. 7: AEDs can hurt people by shocking them inappropriately. Fact: AEDs are safe and effective and will not shock the heart unless shocks are needed to restore a healthy heartbeat.

“Research clearly shows that bystander action in cases of Sudden Cardiac Arrest dramatically improves the likelihood of survival. With greater public awareness and understanding, thousands of lives could be saved every year,” said Mary M. Newman, MS, President of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation. “And since 7 in 10 cardiac arrests occur in the home, taking a few minutes to learn CPR and how to use an AED could mean the difference between life and death for a loved one.” 

Sudden Cardiac Arrest is definitely scary. But don’t be spooked if you should encounter it. Just remember these lifesaving steps: 
1. CALL: Call 911 and follow dispatcher instructions. 
2. PUSH: Start CPR. Press hard and fast on the center of the chest at a rate of 100-120 beats per minute. 
3. SHOCK: Use the nearest AED as quickly as possible.

Learn more here.