Are you at increased risk of sudden cardiac arrest?

10 Mar 2022

Do you know if you're at risk of sudden cardiac arrest? Would you know what to do? Here's some of the more common risk factors and things to look out for.

One of the biggest misconceptions about sudden cardiac arrest is that it is only happens to the elderly. Another common myth is that it’s rare.

Neither is true. Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is a leading cause of death in Australia. It’s a life-threatening emergency that occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating. It strikes people of all ages who may seem to be healthy, even children and teens.


What puts someone at higher risk of sudden cardiac arrest?

Some people have a higher risk of experiencing SCA than others, but the signs aren’t always easy to spot. Sometimes SCA is the first indication of an underlying heart issue. It all adds up to not being able to control everything, so it’s good to understand what risk factors you can control because that awareness may one day save a life.

Here are some of the heart conditions that can increase your risk of sudden cardiac arrest.

Coronary Heart Disease

This type of heart disease begins in the coronary arteries. These arteries supply the heart muscle itself. When they become blocked, your heart does not receive blood. It may stop working properly.

Congenital Heart Disease

Some people are born with heart damage. This is known as a congenital heart problem. Sudden cardiac arrest may occur in children who were born with a serious heart problem.

Large Heart

Having an abnormally large heart places you at increased risk for cardiac arrest. A large heart may not beat correctly. The muscle may also be more prone to damage.

Irregular Heart Valves

Valve disease can make heart valves leaky or narrower. This means blood circulating through the heart either overloads the chambers with blood or does not fill them to capacity. The chambers may become weakened or enlarged. 

Inherited Heart Disorders

Having an abnormal heart rate or heart rhythm, including Brugada’s syndrome or long QT syndrome.

And some of the health factors to consider are:

  • A family history of heart disease
  • A problem with smoking, drug or alcohol use
  • An inactive lifestyle
  • Growing older
  • High blood pressure
  • Nutritional imbalances such as low potassium or magnesium
  • Some types of physical stress such intense physical activity, major blood loss and severe lack of oxygen
  • Obesity


What are the symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest?

Usually, the first sign of SCA is fainting. This sudden loss of consciousness happens when the heart suddenly stops beating. It’s the major difference between a heart attack and SCA. The person will be unresponsive and have stopped breathing.

People occasionally feel dizzy or have a racing heartbeat just before they faint or may experience shortness of breath or nausea in the hour before.


How to treat sudden cardiac arrest

A person having SCA needs to be treated with a defibrillator right away. It’s the only thing that will restart their heart. It does this with a small electrical shock to restore a regular rhythm. The sooner a defibrillator is used, the better the chance of survival. It’s widely recognised as key step in basic life support – Call Push Shock.