Cardiac arrest, or cardiac death, describes the immediate, unexpected and sudden loss of heart function. It can occur in people with or without a previously diagnosed heart condition. Response time is critical, with the death of all other brain and bodily functions occurring in just four to six minutes following cardiac death.
The chances of survival are reduced by seven to ten percent for every minute that passes without defibrillation, which is the process of sending an electric shock to the heart to restore a normal heartbeat and reverse cardiac arrest. After ten minutes, survival is unlikely, as approximately 95 percent of cardiac arrest victims die before reaching the hospital.
There is no way to know your risk of cardiac arrest, but you can take measures to reduce your risk of heart disease. Leading a heart-healthy lifestyle, along with regular heart disease screenings, is an important part of prevention.
For those with a heart condition, managing weight, cholesterol and diabetes is highly important to maintaining good health and reducing risk.
If you live with someone who is diagnosed with a heart condition, you should be trained in CPR and you may want to purchase an automatic external defibrillator (AED) for home emergency response. This option should be discussed with your physician. Such preparation can be valuable to your loved ones, as well as the broader community by increasing the number of people who are prepared to respond to a cardiac emergency when they occur in public.