Women have a lower survival rate from sudden cardiac arrest, partly because bystanders are slower to provide resuscitation to women than men, according to a study published this week.
The researchers also found that primary care visits substantially rose in the weeks before a sudden cardiac arrest. The scientists believe this shows there are more warning signs of impending cardiac arrest than previously thought.
The researchers said this information could help medical professionals identify people at imminent risk of cardiac arrest to help prevent it.
“There could be signs and symptoms of worsening coronary artery disease before a cardiac arrest, which could result in more primary care visits,” said Dr. Salvatore Savona, an electrophysiologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
“Cardiac arrest is typically caused by ventricular arrhythmia or an irregular rhythm from the bottom chamber of the heart,” he told Healthline. “As noted, ventricular fibrillation (VF) is one of these rhythms. A common underlying cause for developing VF is coronary artery disease.”
The researchers pooled data from 15 members of the European Society of Cardiology (ESCAPE-NET) to create a database of more than 100,000 people who have experienced sudden cardiac arrest victims as well as a biobank with 10,000 DNA samples.
Dr. Hanno Tan, ESCAPE-NET project leader and cardiologist at the University of Amsterdam Medical Centre AMC in the Netherlands, said he hopes this information can provide information for researchers to use when studying cardiac arrest.
“Sudden cardiac arrest is a pressing public health problem that has so far been extremely hard to solve, largely because of the lack of difficulty to obtain detailed clinical data and biological samples,” Tan said in a press statement.
“ESCAPE-NET has made important steps by establishing a database, biobank, and knowledge base that may be used in future studies to solve this problem. This should accelerate knowledge gathering on this condition and ultimately reduce the societal burden of sudden cardiac arrest,” he added.
Sudden cardiac arrest is an arrhythmia in the heart’s rhythm that causes it to stop beating immediately, according to UCLA Health.
“The most common underlying cause for a cardiac arrest is coronary artery disease,” Savona said. “The classic typical symptoms include chest pain or chest pressure that becomes worse with exertion and improves with rest. It typically lasts for a few minutes at least.”
“However, there are atypical symptoms as well, such as nausea, fatigue, or shortness of breath,” added Savona. “Men usually present with typical symptoms. However, women may present with more atypical symptoms, which could result in a delay in identifying the underlying cause of symptoms.”
The researchers for the new study point out that death usually occurs within 10 to 20 minutes if blood flow isn’t restored.
Sudden cardiac arrest is not a heart attack, but having a heart attack or heart disease increases your risk of having a sudden cardiac arrest.
Risk factors for women include having one or more of the following conditions:
- Coronary heart disease
- Dilated cardiomyopathy
- Family history of sudden cardiac arrest or some abnormal heart rhythms
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
- Previous heart attack
If someone has a sudden cardiac arrest, resuscitation must happen immediately. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), when started within moments, can triple the chances of survival.
However, many people still see heart disease, heart attacks, and sudden cardiac arrests as a man’s disease, even though 40 percent of cardiac arrests occur in women.
“Women might have delayed treatment because of a delayed recognition of their atypical symptoms,” Savona said.
More than 350,000 people in the United States have an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. Only 12 percent survive, according to the American Heart Association Trusted Source.
There are steps people can take to reduce or prevent sudden cardiac arrest occurrences:
- Stop smoking
- Talk to your doctor about your family history of heart disease, heart failure, cardiomyopathy, or other cardiac conditions
- Pay attention to warning signs, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, unexplained fatigue, fainting, dizziness, and flu-like symptoms, and contact your doctor if you experience them
- Follow up on medical care, such as routine physicals and blood tests
- Take any medication as prescribed
- Exercise regularly: The Centers for Disease Control and PreventionTrusted Source recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity or a combination of both
- Eat a heart-healthy diet
Have an automated external defibrillator at home. If you are at risk for sudden cardiac arrest, ask your family members to take classes to learn CPR.