Cardiac arrest is a serious medical event in which the heart suddenly stops beating. It affects approximately 356,000 Americans each year, according to the American Heart Association. Immediate medical treatment is crucial to increasing the chances of survival. Recognizing the signs of cardiac arrest is important, and a recent study from the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai Health System has identified the most common symptoms that occur in the 24 hours before cardiac arrest.
The study, published in Lancet Digital Health, analyzed data from 823 people who experienced cardiac arrest and a control group of 1,171 people who reported symptoms but did not have a full arrest. The study found that at least one of four symptoms – chest pain, shortness of breath, excessive sweating, and seizure-like activity – was reported in half of the participants who had cardiac arrest.
The most common symptoms varied by gender, with chest pain being more common in men and shortness of breath being more common in women. However, it is important to note that these symptoms are not exclusive to cardiac arrest and can be associated with various cardiovascular diseases.
Dr. Anais Hausvater, a cardiologist at New York University Langone Heart, cautioned against discounting any early signs of cardiac arrest or cardiovascular disease based solely on this study's findings. She emphasized that symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, palpitations, and general chest discomfort should not be ignored and that anyone experiencing cardiac-sounding symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.
Dr. Joseph Marine, vice director of operations for the division of cardiology at Johns Hopkins Community Physicians, acknowledged the study's limitations, including the fact that it only included data from cardiac arrests witnessed by bystanders or EMS personnel. Other limitations include potential errors in reporting symptoms and the study's timing during the COVID-19 pandemic, which may have affected symptom presentation.
In conclusion, it is essential to be aware of the potential signs of cardiac arrest, including the common symptoms identified in the study. However, it is important not to solely rely on these findings and to seek medical attention for any concerning cardiovascular symptoms. Taking care of oneself through healthy lifestyle choices, regular check-ups, and learning CPR can also help reduce the risk of cardiac arrest and improve survival rates.