Sudden Cardiac Arrest: How To Take Care of Your Heart Health During Holidays

Studies show that cardiac deaths are about 5 percent more common over the holidays.

4 min read

In India, heart attacks, cardiac arrests, and strokes account for one-fifth of all deaths, especially among the young population.

Recently, there has been a sudden rise in incidents of cardiac arrests among the younger population in India. From actors, to singers, to comedians, the news of the younger generation succumbing to cardiac arrests is shocking and a hard-hitting reminder for all of us to take extra care of our cardiac health.

As we move into the winter with the Christmas holiday season around the corner, it is important to be cautious of our hearts, more so during this joyful time.

Because of the stress this season frequently brings – in the form of rich and heavy food, sweets, alcohol consumption, and missing out on exercises – it can also be a risky period for our hearts.

Studies show that compared to the rest of the year, cardiac deaths are about 5 percent more common over the holidays.

The holidays can sometimes be a time of "excess," therefore this phenomenon is not a coincidence. People frequently eat richer, saltier foods in larger portions, and they also consume more alcohol.

They can neglect their medication schedules and healthy behaviours because they are too busy crossing things off their to-do list.

Additionally, if they do experience any worrisome heart symptoms, they are more likely to delay seeking medical attention or address it during the holiday period so as not to interfere with their family's Christmas plans. These elements may combine to provide the ideal conditions for a Sudden Cardiac Arrest.

What Is A Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

A sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is a sudden loss of heart function, breathing, and consciousness that occurs when the heart stops or does not beat sufficiently to maintain perfusion and life.

It is typically caused by an electrical disruption in the heart's action.

Sudden cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack, which occurs when blood flow to a portion of the heart is cut off. A heart attack, on the other hand, can occasionally cause an electrical disruption that results in rapid cardiac arrest. Sudden cardiac death (SCD) can occur because of a cardiovascular cause within one hour of the onset of symptoms.

Symptoms of SCA

Sudden cardiac arrest symptoms are immediate and severe, and include:

  • Sudden collapse

  • No pulse

  • No breathing

  • Loss of consciousness

Other symptoms such as chest heaviness, dizziness, fast beating palpitations, or shortness of breath may occur before sudden cardiac arrest.

However, abrupt cardiac arrest frequently occurs without warning. In a cardiac arrest, the patient may gasp for air or cease breathing entirely, collapsing.


Prevention of SCA

SCA is a threat to life, but it can be avoided to a considerable part by living a heart-healthy lifestyle, which reduces the risk of sudden death from SCA in general.

Recent studies have shown that during the holiday season since people indulge in sweets, oil-rich foods, and alcohol as well as take a break from their routine exercise schedules, the chances of a sudden cardiac arrest in people with underlying heart illnesses is higher at this time.

Such activities can also increase the risk of heart rhythm abnormalities, particularly in those with coronary heart disease. Constant loud music and excessive high-energy activities can also induce an increase in blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat.

Walking, yoga, cardio, Zumba, running, and at least 2 strength-training sessions per week should be done regularly for 30-60 minutes. It is important to maintain a healthy, mineral-rich diet to keep the heart healthy. Salt, refined sugar, and high-fat diets should also be avoided because they increase the risk of cardiac arrest. Obesity is one of the leading causes of cardiac arrest, thus losing weight should be part of everyone’s prevention approach. During the holiday season, our sleep schedules also get altered and it is important that we get sufficient and a good night’s sleep regularly to keep our heart health in check.


Managing & Treating SCA

SCA can be fatal if not treated immediately. With prompt and appropriate medical attention, survival is feasible. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), using a defibrillator to shock the heart, or even simply applying chest compressions can increase the odds of life until emergency personnel arrive.

In the long run, timely treatment can improve not just a patient's chances of survival but also their quality of life. For treating an SCA, implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICDs) are the most effective. The doctor may implant an ICD after an episode to prevent such an attack from repeating and for patients who are at a higher risk of cardiac arrest.

It is a small battery-powered device that is implanted in the chest and detects and stops abnormal heartbeats. The ICD is intended to continuously monitor and identify irregular heartbeats in patients. When necessary, they also give electrical impulses and controlled shocks to re-establish a normal heart rhythm.

(Dr. Anjan Siotia is the Director of Cardiology at BM Birla Heart Research Centre. For the past 17 years, he has worked as a Cardiologist and gained proficient skills and knowledge in Cardiology. With huge clinical, procedural & research experience, Dr Siotia’s areas of special interest include complex angioplasty, chronic total occlusion, TAVI, CRT & ICD Pacemaker Surgery and Radial Interventions.)

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