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Responding to Sudden Cardiac Arrest

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sudden cardiac arrest and how to respond iStockphoto/Thinkstock

It’s Friday night and after a very L-O-N-G week at work, you and a few girlfriends decide that it’s time for a GNO - Girl’s Night Out.

You meet at the local pub and are just beginning to relax when a man walking by your table suddenly collapses to the floor.

Talk about adding drama to an already overtaxed week! The man has just suffered sudden cardiac arrest, or SCA. Fortunately for him, you know exactly what to do and spring into action.

The man’s life is saved, the pub gives you and your girlfriend’s drinks on the house for a year, and to top it all off -- you win the local radio station's hero-of-the-year prize which involves a substantial cash prize enabling you to quit work and study art in Venice for a year.

Ahh ... life is good!

While reality seldom mirrors fiction, one part of the above scenario is very real. Sudden cardiac arrest is an extremely serious life-threatening condition which can -- and does -- occur anytime, anywhere, and without warning.

SCA is caused when the heart suffers an electrical-type malfunction and simply stops beating. In most instances, there are no early warning signs that an SCA event is imminent.

Some may experience dizziness or a racing heartbeat just before SCA occurs. Often, the first -- and only -- symptom is when the person loses consciousness and has no pulse. If not treated within minutes, SCA is fatal.

Annually, approximately 250,000 people in the United States die from SCA. Some estimates place the number of unexpected cardiac deaths much higher, ranging between 400,000 and 600,000.

Regardless of the actual number, the reality is that very few victims of SCA -- between 5 and 8 percent -- survive. According to the American Heart Association, performing CPR can double, and in some instances, triple the victim’s chance of survival.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of people -- almost 70 percent -- do not receive any CPR from bystanders, which contributes to the low survival rate.

Are you prepared to handle SCA? Would you know what to do?

If not, then you should. According to the American Heart Association, 88 percent of all cardiac arrests occur at home.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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