Myths Surrounding the Leading Cause of Death in the US
Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is the leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for over 350,000 outpatient deaths. SCA has been defined as a condition in which your heart suddenly stops beating without any apparent or founded cause.
For too long, this affliction was shrouded in mystery, even a mystique, but in recent decades science has been able to establish that around 80% of the SCA cases in the US (and worldwide, for that matter!) are tied to coronary artery disease. The actual heart arrest (stopping) is triggered by an electrical malfunction of the heart that starts with arrhythmia or an irregular heartbeat. No heart function immediately means no supply of blood to the brain, lungs, muscles, all organs, really. Then, the person typically loses consciousness and dies if no immediate treatment is supplied. Most unfortunately, only 10% of the people suffering from SCA will receive cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) within minutes. Even less, at around 5%, will be treated with automated external defibrillators (AEDs). With every passing minute of treatment depravation, the risk of survival decreases by 7-10%, time being muscle. This way, only 10% of SCA victims actually do survive. AED success rates, however, have proven capital in reverting these grim digits: the AED program survival rate is close to 40%. Companies, organizations, communities at large with comprehensive AED programs (CPR + AED), including trained rescuers, are largely responsible for this upside to cardiac arrest victim death rate improvement.
Still, the preoccupation lingers, when we learn that SCA impacts across the board, including infants, children, teenagers, young adults, as well as 30 and 40-year-old’s who have no apparent sign of heart disease. It stands to reason, of course, that is also affects the more mature adults.
Besides the good fortune of being surrounded by bystanders with lifesaving skills and AEDs when this occurs, all of us might be better served by debunking a few myths surrounding Sudden Cardiac Arrest.
- SCA is rare. It is the nº1 cause of death, equivalent to two jet planes going down with a 100% death rate on a daily basis.
- SCA and heart attack are the same. The victim is aware that his/her heart is beating. With SCA, no consciousness means no awareness. However, there is a strong link between them, with heart attacks increasing the probability of ensuing SCA.
- SCA only happens to old people. Big, massive WRONG!!! Across the board, with up to 7,000 cases of under-18s per year.
- Victims are better off waiting for professional help to arrive. As was mentioned earlier, bystander and passerby immediate skillful intervention could mean the difference between life and death.
- Only trained staff should be allowed to perform AEDs. Visual and voice prompts are now largely available, so should be straight forward for a large chunk of the population to actually use on sight. Also, AEDs are safe and effective, with shock therapy only needed in a small fraction of times.