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  • Writer's pictureMed Insider

What is Cardiac Arrest?

By Jadey Chen


  • Cardiac Arrest is when the heart suddenly stops and the individual loses heart function and breathing.

  • Cardiac Arrest is relatively common with several hundred thousand cases every year in the United States.

  • Individuals who suddenly have a cardiac attack need immediate medical attention.


Cardiac Arrest is a sudden death and is considered to be the largest cause of natural death in the United States which causes about three hundred thousand deaths every year. Simply put, sudden cardiac arrest is when an individual suddenly loses heart function and it stops pumping, which leads to a lack of blood going to vital organs. Cardiac arrest needs immediate treatment once it happens – it’s one of those cases where every second counts. Nine out of ten people who have a cardiac attack don’t make it if they can’t get to the hospital or to an ambulance fast enough.

Cardiac Arrest Vs. Heart Attack

Many people find it hard to differentiate between a sudden cardiac arrest and a heart attack since both of them seem to be a sudden loss of function to the heart. The reason they are different is since: a heart attack is when blood flow to the heart is blocked, and a cardiac arrest is when the heart suddenly stops pumping. Heart attacks normally occur due to a blocked artery, preventing the blood flow from reaching a certain part of the heart, which if not treated quickly can lead to that part of the heart beginning to die.


What exactly causes cardiac arrest? The primary cause of cardiac arrest is ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia, both being types of arrhythmias. There are other risk factors like any heart problems or previous heart attacks, although it’s hard to identify, since half of cardiac arrest patients have no idea that they have any heart problem. There might be some signs of cardiac arrest prior to it happening like shortness of breath, palpitations, and discomfort but sudden cardiac arrest happens without any symptoms and it occurs immediately. One can be identified as having cardiac arrest when they suddenly lose consciousness and have no pulse.


Since cardiac arrest is so sudden, it is important for the patient to get immediate help. The chances of survival drop by 10% each minute longer after the first initial minutes. After the paramedics arrive, they will use a defibrillator to restart the person’s heart and also give antiarrhythmics to restore the heart’s rhythm.

How to do CPR

There are CPR courses to officially learn how to perform CPR but there will be a general description of how to perform CPR if it’s ever necessary in your day to day life. It’s a useful skill to learn in case anyone happens to go into cardiac arrest near you; being able to perform CPR could potentially help save someone’s life.

Push fast and hard on the person’s chest (about 100-120 pushes per minute) with two hands on their chest. Deliver rescue breaths every 30 compressions by pinching the person’s nose shut and sealing their mouth with your own and take a breath. Continue doing this 30 compressions and 2 breath patterns until emergency workers arrive. Make sure that the chest fully recess between compressions.


Cardiac Arrest is a scary condition due to how fast it happens and how critical it is to receive treatment fast. After the initial moments it happens, the survival rate drastically decreases which is why it’s important to immediately call for help and to do CPR if the person has stopped breathing. If possible, it’s always helpful to learn how to seriously do CPR since cardiac arrest is relatively common and linked to hundreds of thousands of deaths per year and it could help save a life!



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