Tuesday, October 8, 2013

October is Sudden Cardiac Awareness Month

For many of us October is a month of two colors:  orange and pink.  Orange in all its variations seems to be the standard color for fall and the upcoming Halloween festivities.  Pink is the standard color of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  It’s the time of year for walks and other fundraising and awareness events; even your favorite NFL players can be seen wearing pink every Sunday.  I’d like to add another color to the October repertoire:  red.  October is also recognized as National Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month.  Organizations such as the Heart Rhythm Society are beefing up efforts to improve awareness and education around sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) and all those affected. 

Those of you who follow A4IA know that SCA is one of the primary conditions that can affect athletes, even at a young age.  The ASA™ program spends time teaching student-athletes to recognize SCA and report it accordingly.  Student-athletes are also taught how to perform hands-only CPR and used an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) to respond as directed.  The ASA™ program focuses on this condition in young athletes, but SCA can strike at any age.  Understanding the basics about SCA and having the skills to respond could save someone’s life.

  • 350,000 deaths occur annually due to SCA (more than breast cancer, lung cancer, AIDS)
  • Claims a life about every 90 seconds
  • Is NOT a heart attack (it is an electrical problem, not a blood flow problem)
  • 95% of people who experience SCA die
  • Can often occur without any warning signs (approximately in 2/3 of all cases)
  • Risk factors include a low ejection fraction (EF), family history of sudden death, unexplained episodes of fainting, heart attack, abnormal heart rhythm

Time is of the essence when treating SCA.  If you suspect SCA you should call 911 immediately and begin treatment.  Using an AED is the preferred treatment for SCA, if available. Treatment with an AED within 4-6 minutes of suffering SCA increases survival rates. If an AED is not available, begin CPR until emergency personnel arrives.

Some of the most interesting information I found on the HRS website relates to recent research data that was collected relative to awareness of SCA in the general public and among physicians.  Some of the more interesting finding include:
  • 1 in 4 people can correctly identify SCA
  • 65% of people believe SCA is the same as a heart attack
  • 90% of people underestimate the number of people who die from SCA
  • Consumers who suffer heart-related symptoms are more likely NOT to see a physician regarding their symptoms, even if they are at risk for heart disease

The American Heart Association has devoted a significant portion of their web resources to better understanding SCA.  Click HERE to learn more.

Eric Paredes Save A Life Foundation is sponsoring another heart screening event on October 20, 2013 at Patrick Henry High School.  To learn more or register for this event, click HERE.

Heart Rhythm Society (HRS) provides a variety of fact sheets and resources regarding SCA, atrial fibrillation and other related topics.  For more information click, HERE and check out the left-sided menu.  If you have the time I would encourage you explore even more of the website as there is a wealth of information and resources available here for consumers and physicians.

Korey Stringer Institute provides SCA recognition and treatment guidelines.  If you love to read the research you should check out KSI’s research publications database, simply scroll down to cardiac conditions.  If you’d like to learn more about AEDs click HERE.

The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association is devoted entirely to SCA.  

Submitted by Heather L. Clemons, MS, MBA, ATC


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