October is Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month


Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is a leading cause of death in the United States. Each year, 350,000 Americans die suddenly and unexpectedly due to cardiac arrhythmias. Almost 4,000 of them are young people under the age of 35, and this has increased 10% in recent years. Deaths among young women from SCA have increased 30%, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and most deaths are attributable to sudden cardiac arrest. Often, people die from Sudden Cardiac Arrest because they do not receive medical treatment for SCA within the first 4 to 6 minutes of an attack, when brain and permanent death start to occur.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest is not the same as a heart attack. In SCA, the heart suddenly stops beating, so no blood can be pumped to the rest of the body. In a heart attack, a blockage in a blood vessel interrupts the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart, causing the heart muscle to die.

Life-saving measures are effective if they are administered in time. Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICD’s) are 98% effective at protecting those at risk for SCA, but only 35% of patients eligible have them. Automatic Exernal Defibrillators (AED’s) can increase the survival rate for Sudden Cardiac Arrest within the first few minutes of an attack, but they are still not widely available for use.

Conditions that cause SCA in young people are likely genetic and include Long QT syndrome, Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, and Brugada Syndrome.


Long QT Syndrome (LQTS) is a rare congenital heart condition, and arrhythmias are usually associated with exercise or excitement. It is thought that 10-12% of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is due to LQTS.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a condition in which the heart muscle (myocardium) is thickened, forcing the heart to work harder to pump blood throughout the body. It affects 1 in 500 people, and is often the leading cause of sudden unexpected cardiac death in young athletes.

Brugada Syndrome is a genetic disease that is characterized by abnormal electrocardiogram (ECG) findings and is also known as Sudden Unexpected Death Syndrome (SUDS). About 20% of cases are associated with a mutation in the SCN5A gene that encodes part of the the functioning of the muscle cells of the heart.

Warning Signs of Sudden Cardiac Arrest:

* Family history of unexpected, unexplained sudden death in a person younger than 50
* Fainting (syncope) or seizure during exercise, excitement or startle.
* Consistent or unusual chest pain and/or shortness of breath during exercise.
* Previous heart attack

Take a risk assessment to learn more about Sudden Cardiac Arrest at Stopcardiacarrest.org.

Sources: Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association, Sudden Cardiac Arrest Coalition