Man with hands on his chest

Nearly 400,000 cardiac arrests occur outside of a hospital each year in the United States, according to the American Heart Association. An electrophysiologist offers four tips he hopes will help make a difference in survival rates of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).​

Tahmeed A. Contractor, MD, clinical cardiac electrophysiologist at the Loma Linda University International Heart Institute, says that many of the patients he sees who have suffered from SCA have ignored their symptoms or knew very little about SCA. ​

Sudden cardiac arrest happens when the heart suddenly stops, which can lead to less blood supply to the brain and the rest of the body. One of the common causes include ventricular arrhythmia which can in turn be caused by a blockage of a heart artery or low heart function. ​

Contractor says that although your chances of having an SCA increases as you get older, it can happen at any age. In addition, he adds that the majority of those who have an SCA in the community do not have a prior history of heart disease... He hopes that through sharing these four tips, it will help save lives.​

“Just like having a parachute when you jump out of a plane, knowing how to help someone you see suffering from sudden cardiac arrest, can only help,” Contractor says. “Be aware not only for yourself but for people around you and your family.”​

Here are Contractor’s four tips:​

  1. Don’t ignore symptoms.Contractor says the smallest signs that could pass as anxiety or dehydration should never be overlooked. He shares a patient story of a 40-year-old male who rode a bike for long distances weekly. Although the patient was healthy, he had passing-out spells. When he came in after a bad one, doctors found his life-threating heart rhythm. Contractor uses this as a great example of not ignoring the warning signs. Symptoms include your heart racing for long periods of time, nearly passing out or passing-out spells, chest pain during exertion or shortness of breath during exertion that is worsening. Contractor advises seeing a doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms.
  2. CPR can save the brain. There is blood loss to the brain during an SCA. Just a few minutes of blood loss to the brain can cause a significant amount of brain damage. Contractor says performing CPR on someone will allow blood to continue to flow to the brain until paramedics arrive. 
  3. Know the location of an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED). If you are in a public place, such as a gym, school or movie theater, there are often designated areas for Automatic External Defibrillators or AEDs. Knowing how to use one and knowing where they are so you can quickly retrieve and deploy it can help save someone’s life.
  4. Know your family history. If someone has a family history of someone passing suddenly or SCA, please consult your doctor and get checked out yourself. Contractor says that family history increases the chances of SCA.

At Loma Linda University Health, we focus on whole-person care and would like to connect you with information or physicians to help you along your health journey. If you would like to learn more information about sudden cardiac arrest, visit our website or schedule an appointment with your physician on My Chart or call, 1-800-468-5432.