If you are like most people, you probably don’t. This is why sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) kills more than 350,000 people in North America every year.
The Save-a-Life Simulator, an interactive video produced by the HeartRescue Project, is an effort to reduce SCA deaths. Funded by the charitable arm of medical technology manufacturer, Medtronic, HeartRescue seeks to increase SCA survival rates by promoting immediate lifesaving cardiac care. Most SCAs happen in the general public. The response of bystanders in the minutes before emergency assistance arrives can have life or death consequences.
Accessed through the HeartRescue website, the Save-a-Life Simulator puts the viewer in the shoes of an everyday mall-goer who comes face to face with a person experiencing SCA. Beginning with the decision to either help or ignore, the viewer continues on a series of you-are-there choices that end with the victim either surviving or dying. This allows the viewer to see up close the appropriate response to SCA:
(1) Call 9-1-1.
(2) Immediately start chest compressions while waiting for emergency responders – the 9-1-1 operator can assist.
(3) If available, immediately use an automated external defibrillator (AED).
Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)
SCA occurs when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. This is caused when an electrical disturbance in the heart – an arrhythmia – disrupts its pumping abilities. Unlike a heart attack, where blood flow to the heart is disrupted by a blockage in one or more of the arteries, during SCA, blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body stops. Without immediate treatment, death results within minutes. Chest compression keeps the blood circulating until the heart is restarted.
SCA is often linked with coronary artery disease. The factors that put people at risk for one of these conditions also put them at risk for the other:
- A family history of coronary artery disease or SCA
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Consuming more than one to two alcoholic beverages a day
Other circumstances that may increase SCA risk include:
- Intense physical activity. The hormone adrenaline is released during intense physical activity and can trigger SCA in people who have other heart problems.
- Very low blood levels of potassium or magnesium. These minerals play an important role in the heart’s electrical signaling.
- Major blood loss.
- Severe lack of oxygen.
Most people who experience SCA die. Take steps to save your life by knowing the risk factors and seeking guidance from your doctor about how to prevent SCA. Take steps to save another by knowing how to perform emergency cardiac care.