Q: Sudden cardiac arrest is not a heart attack. How are they different?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Sudden cardiac arrest happens when the heart starts beating very fast and quivers instead of beating in a regular and organized way. As a result, very little or no blood gets pumped to the rest of the body and brain. A heart attack results from plaque buildup in the arteries that support blood flow to the heart. The plaque stops blood flow to certain areas of the heart, causing the heart muscle to die.
Q: What happens to a person experiencing cardiac arrest?
Marla Ahlgrimm: A person experiencing sudden cardiac arrest can lose consciousness quickly and if health professionals don’t reverse what caused the heart to do that, a person can die within six minutes.
Q: How is cardiac arrest treated?
Marla Ahlgrimm: The only effective way to treat cardiac arrest is with defibrillation. This corrects the heart beat to its normal rate with an electrical pulse.
Q: Do victims of heart attacks have a greater chance of survival than those experiencing cardiac arrest?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Yes. Most people survive a first heart attack, but only five percent survive cardiac arrest because defibrillation is not delivered within six minutes.
Q: Heart attack is the number one killer in the United States. What are the symptoms of a heart attack?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Although chest pain is the most common symptom, heart attack victims may experience a diversity of symptoms, including shortness of breath, arm pain, and nausea.
Q: Who is at risk of having sudden cardiac arrest?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Sudden cardiac arrest occurs more often in people who have had a heart attack. The previously damaged heart can lead to disturbances in the heart’s electrical system.