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Thank you for subscribing to Heart Health, an Avera eNewsletter that provides you with useful information about cardiac care and prevention. We believe a healthy lifestyle starts with a strong heart. To learn more about our services and community events, or to find a physician, visit www.Avera.org.

To your health,

The Avera Staff


Many people are aware October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but did you know it's also Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month?

Sudden cardiac arrest, which is caused by an abnormal heart rhythm known as ventricular fibrillation, differs from a heart attack. During a heart attack, a blockage in a blood vessel interrupts the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart, causing the heart muscle to become starved for oxygen and begin to die.

"Sudden cardiac arrest is a rhythmic disturbance of the heart muscle," says Dr. Riyad Mohama of North Central Heart Institute in Sioux Falls, S.D. "The heart muscle doesn't contract as it usually does, and no blood goes to the brain."

People who experience sudden cardiac arrest need to be resuscitated within the first five minutes of the event; any longer that that and the brain will incur permanent injury due to lack of blood flow to the brain.

Each year, 350,000 Americans die suddenly and unexpectedly from cardiac arrhythmias. Of those deaths, nearly 4,000 occur in people younger than 35. The following symptoms may occur within one hour before a sudden cardiac arrest episode:

  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath

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In the event of a sudden cardiac arrest, life-saving measures can be effective if people act early and quickly. Automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) can increase the survival rate for sudden cardiac arrest patients and have been proven to help save lives. 

According to the American Heart Association, cardiopulmonary resuscitation rescue attempts using electric defibrillation improve survival rates by as much as 49 percent. An estimated 20,000 to 100,000 sudden cardiac deaths could be prevented each year if AEDs were readily available.

An AED is a device that automatically analyzes the heart rhythm. If it detects a problem, the AED can administer a shock to restore a normal heartbeat. If you come across someone who is unresponsive:

  • Call 911 for emergency medical services.
  • Begin CPR immediately and continue until professional emergency medical services arrive.
  • Determine if an AED is available and use it as soon as it arrives.

Click here for more information about sudden cardiac arrest and AEDs.

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Heart Attack Symptoms
In Great Health online archive.

Heart Health is one in a series of Avera eNewsletters that gives readers valuable information about health and wellness at Avera facilities. It is not intended to replace personal medical advice, which should be obtained directly from a physician.