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Heart Health

Are You at Risk for Cardiac Arrest?

Cardiac arrest is characterized by the sudden loss of cardiac function, when the heart abruptly stops beating. Because it can happen suddenly with few symptoms, it is very important to know whether you are at risk.

It is important to know the medical history of your family. Because cardiac arrest can occur so quickly, heart conditions in your immediate family are often a good indicator of a person’s risk level. It is very difficult to determine what caused a cardiac arrest after it has already happened, unless doctors have knowledge of the patient’s personal and family medical background.”

Despite the lack of warning symptoms, doctors utilize several methods to determine if you have a higher risk level. The most common underlying reason for patients to die suddenly from cardiac arrest is heart disease. Irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmia) cause the heart to suddenly stop beating. Some cardiac arrests are due to extreme slowing of the heart, which is known as bradycardia.

People who have survived a previous heart attack or have a history of congestive heart failure are four to six times more likely to die suddenly from cardiac arrest. In addition, other less common conditions can induce cardiac arrest. These include changes in the heart's normal size or structure, certain types of physical stress, respiratory arrest, drowning, choking and trauma. It can also occur without any known cause.

To help reduce your risk, adhere to the following tips:

Following these tips will help you understand your risks and allow you to reduce your risks of a Cardiac Arrest.

This article originally appeared in The Ohio State University Medical Center's Heart Newsletter and is published with permission.

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Last Reviewed: May 03, 2010

Assistant Professor
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University