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7 Signs Of Cardiac Arrest And What You Can Do To Help A Patient

Many heart problems can be inherited. It could be passed from one family member to another, depending on how dominant or recessive their genes are. But these cases don’t mean that people who don’t have a family history of heart problems are exempted from them.   

Most heart problems are under the lifestyle disease category. It means that such ailments may happen to anyone, depending on how they live their life, especially when it comes to their eating habits. If these are left ignored, a person increases his risk of cardiac arrest.  

Cardiac arrest, also known as sudden cardiac death, is a serious condition that occurs when the heart stops functioning and beating. It means that there are problems in your heart’s electrical system, which halt the pumping action and blood flow throughout your body.   

Also, cardiac arrest is not the same as a cardiac attack. Heart attacks happen when the blood flow stops because of blocked arteries, which contribute to your heart’s electrical system failure, resulting in arrest. Unfortunately, if not treated immediately, cardiac arrest may result in death. So, it is best to know what the signs are and how to address cases as soon as possible.   

What Are The Signs Of Cardiac Arrest?  

Cardiac arrest may happen at any time of the day, and the first course of action is crucial for the sake of the patient. So, it is vital to observe the signs of an impending arrest. Here are the signs and symptoms that may tell you when someone is possibly going to experience sudden cardiac arrest:  

1. Agonal Breathing  

Agonal breathing is a respiratory problem that usually occurs before cardiac arrest, but it may also be a symptom of a serious medical condition. It is characterized as gasping of breath and labored breathing.   

The gasping of breath can be associated with a heart that has already stopped blood circulation throughout the body. However, it could mean that there’s a problem in your lungs due to reduced oxygen intake, which could result in death. If you want to know more about agonal breathing, you may click here for more info or visit your cardiologist and ask for a thorough checkup.  

In addition, agonal breathing is not the same as ‘death rattle,’ which is the bubbling noise when people die. It occurs when the saliva or mucus is blocking the throat. Instead, agonal refers to abnormal breathing patterns, which sometimes produce moaning sounds and could last for several hours.   

Furthermore, if you see someone gasping their breath, it would be best to call for immediate medical assistance.   

2. Dizziness Or Light-Headedness  

Dizziness is one of the symptoms indicating heart problems. However, some survivors state that they did not feel light-headed or dizzy before their arrest. Even so, dizziness could still mean that one is expecting an impending arrest, especially when they already have severe heart conditions.   

In addition, dizziness or light-headedness may occur when there’s a problem with your body’s oxygen supply. When your body is deprived of oxygen, brain cells may become weak, leading to cell death and damage. After that, you may experience balancing problems and feel dizzy. As mentioned above, breathing difficulties could mean cardiac arrest. It is the reason why dizziness is somehow correlated to cardiac arrest.   

Also, dizziness occurs when a person takes a medication to address blood pressure. If you think you have a similar case to this one, it would be best to consult your doctor right away to diagnose your condition properly.   

3. Chest Pain  

Chest pain is the most common symptom of cardiac arrest. If you see someone holding their chest and looks like in pain and having difficulties, they might be suffering or will suffer an impending arrest. So, it would be best to call medical assistance immediately.   

However, chest pain is a symptom of many conditions. Hence, it is hard to diagnose diseases based on chest pain alone. So, expect that your doctor will ask for valuable pieces of information to give you an accurate diagnosis of your condition.   

Here are the questions your doctor may ask you:  

  • What kind of pain (burning, sharp, etc.) are you feeling right now?  
  • When did the chest pain start? 
  • Where is the discomforting area?  
  • Did it happen before? 
  • Are you doing anything that could lead to chest pain? 
  • Is it worse than before?  
  • How often does it occur?  

Answering these questions and providing your medical history will help your doctor analyze your condition accurately. In addition, here are some conditions that often result in cardiac arrest: 

  • If there’s pressure, burning, squeezing, and tightness in the chest area  
  • If there’s an emergence of pain that may last for a few minutes  
  • If there’s a constant pain in the middle of your chest  
  • If the pain spreads in your arms, back, and neck  
  • If there are other symptoms, such as cold sweat and breathing problems  

If you are experiencing one or more of the following symptoms, consult a professional cardiologist as soon as possible. It is to prevent severe conditions that may lead to death.

4. Loss Of Consciousness  

If you see someone suddenly fall, it could mean that they are suffering from cardiac arrest. In this unfortunate situation, it would be best to call an ambulance as soon as possible.  

Loss of consciousness, medically known as cardiac syncope, is another common indication of severe heart problems, such as hypotension, bradycardia, or tachycardia. It occurs when your brain doesn’t receive adequate blood circulation due to heart problems.   

Here are some factors that may cause cardiac syncope:  

  • Problems regarding the structure of your heart, such as dilated and ischemic cardiomyopathy and issues concerning heart valves and atria 
  • Issues regarding your heart’s electrical system, such as Brugada syndrome and arrhythmia 
  • Presence of other heart ailments, such as pulmonary embolism 

In addition, you might need to learn the following situations that may lead to cardiac syncope: 

  • If you’re experiencing chest pain or increased rate of a heartbeat before fainting 
  • If you’re feeling weak during your workouts and other strenuous activities 
  • If you lose your consciousness while lying down 

Also, some people may be at higher risk of experiencing cardiac syncope. Here are factors to consider to determine if you’re one of them: 

  • If you’re 60 years old and above 
  • If you’re male 
  • If you have existing heart conditions (mild or severe) 
  • If your family has a genetic case of heart disease and fainting 

Loss of consciousness is a symptom that may also pertain to conditions other than heart problems. So, call a doctor immediately if one of your loved ones experiences this.   

5. Weak Or Absent Pulse  

Weak pulse is a common symptom of cardiac arrest and heart attack and a case of a medical emergency. If you experience this, you cannot speak or move properly. In that case, the best course of action would be seeking immediate medical treatment.   

In addition, you might want to know how to check if your pulse is weak or not. Here are the ways to do it properly:  

  • Checking Your Wrist: Put your index and middle fingers on your wrist and hold it with a bit of pressure.   
  • Checking Your Neck: Put your index and middle fingers beside your Adam’s apple and hold it with a bit of pressure.  
  • Counting Pulse: After locating your pulse, set your timer to 30 seconds and count your pulse beats. After counting, multiply it by two, which will give you an average pulse rate per minute. It should be within the range of 60 to 100 beats per minute to achieve a standard pulse rate. If it’s lower or higher than the range, consult your doctor, or better yet, call 911 immediately.   

Moreover, take note of how your pulse beats. Check if the pace is inconsistent, meaning the pulse moves from fast to slow or vice versa. It may result in an average rate, but if it does not, it will lead to serious complications like arrest.   

Furthermore, if you usually have a weak pulse, you might need to observe it. To help you with that, you may use a pulse oximeter to monitor your pulse rate and oxygen level properly.   

What Should You Do To Help A Patient?  

As mentioned before, the first step is always critical to the patient. In short, their lives are in your hands. So, if you want to help them, make sure you know what to do when such cases occur. Here are the things you might need to do on a patient suffering from cardiac arrest: 

6. Call 911  

Calling 911 for medical assistance is the most important step one should never forget. It is the first step before performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on a patient. When calling 911, tell them the situation of the patient, including whether or not the patient is conscious, speech abilities, and other symptoms that may be present.   

Depending on your case, you might be asked to perform CPR on the patient, especially when there’s no heartbeat or pulse. If you don’t know the correct way of doing it, tell them to instruct you during the call and assist you while performing it. Also, they might tell you to perform CPR until the first responders arrive in your area.  

When they arrive, they will take over the situation and bring the patient to the nearest hospital. So, when witnessing cases of cardiac arrest, don’t delay the chances and call 911 for help.   

7. Perform CPR  

As mentioned above, there are cases when you have to perform CPR on the patient. It is another critical step that may increase their chance of survival. However, most people don’t know how to do this. Again, if you don’t know what to do, ask the dispatcher how and they will clearly instruct you what you need to do.   

However, learning CPR is one of the basic first aid steps for survival, and each person should know how to perform it. Remember, time is crucial during medical emergencies. So, having the dispatcher teach you how to do it will decrease the patient’s survival rate. In that case, it would be best to know how to perform CPR beforehand.   

Here is the correct way of doing CPR: 

  • Step 1 – Lying Down: Let the person lie down horizontally on an even floor. 
  • Step 2 – Proper Hand Position: Place one heel of your hand on the chest of the patient and the other one on top of your hand. Also, make sure your fingers are tightly positioned. And make sure that your hands and shoulder are aligned properly in a straight-line position. 
  • Step 4 – Chest Compression: Press the chest hard enough using your body weight and continue doing this for at least 100 to 120 compression per minute. You may use the song ‘Stayin’ Alive’ to guide your beat.  
  • Step 5 – Pre-Arrival: Do this until the first responders arrive and never leave the patient alone. Leaving them is like letting them die without any help.  

Furthermore, before performing CPR, call 911 first. They will tell you if the patient needs CPR based on the symptoms they show. It is to prevent further problems that may only harm the patient.   

  • Use Automatic External Defibrillator (AED)  

AEDs are essential equipment created to address sudden cardiac arrest. Usually, it is located in most offices and buildings to help those who might suffer from heart emergencies. It works by using electric shocks to correct the electrical activity of the patient’s heart, resulting in normal heart rhythm.  

However, AEDs might need time to get recharged before you can use them again. In this case, you need to continue performing CPR until the defibrillator is fully charged and ready to use.   

Also, you may ask the dispatcher about the correct amount of shock to use to revive the patient’s heart rhythm. However, the chance of a patient’s survival may be reduced. So, it’s vital to learn how to use it.   

Here are the steps of using AEDs according to the Red Cross:  

  • Step 1: Make sure you have called 911 for an emergency. 
  • Step 2: Remove the patient’s clothing covering the chest and make sure it’s dry. 
  • Step 3: Place one pad on the upper right chest and the other on the lower left chest. 
  • Step 4: Let the machine analyze the heart rhythm. 
  • Step 5: Deliver the shock and make sure that no one touches the patient. 
  • Step 6: After that, start the CPR if the shock is no longer required. 

Final Words  

Cardiac arrest may happen to anyone with existing heart problems regardless of age and gender. Unfortunately, this condition may lead to death if not addressed immediately. Therefore, it is best to learn the signs and symptoms that indicate an arrest. It will give you an upper hand in the situation by increasing the patient’s chance of survival.   

Furthermore, while the information presented is critical to the patient, don’t forget to call medical assistance for necessary help.   

Basic Cardiac (Heart) Care
The Basic Cardiac (Heart) Care Course guides you through Specific Strategies to Make Your Heart Healthier And Help Prevent Heart Attacks.
January 31, 2022

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