• Cardiovascular

    Warning Signs of Sudden Cardiac Arrest

young business woman holding chest appearing to have heart attack

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is a medical emergency. It happens when an event, usually an electrical disturbance, quickly and unexpectedly causes your heart to stop working. You get short of breath, collapse and lose consciousness. Fast treatment is key to survival. The condition is called "sudden" because it seems to happen without warning. But research published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine shows it may not be as sudden as typically thought. They found some people experience warning signs such as chest pain or shortness of breath before sudden cardiac arrest, but most of the time the symptoms are ignored.

Mayo Clinic cardiologist and founder of Mayo Clinic's Women's Heart Clinic Dr. Sharonne Hayes says, "The study shows close to half of the patients in the study reported symptoms within a month prior to their arrest. Some within 24 to one hour beforehand. It also shows that people who reported symptoms and then called 911 were five times more likely to survive than those who didn't. This is an important reminder to everyone to pay attention to symptoms, and if you have them seek emergency medical care."

Warning symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest include:

  • chest pain or pressure that may radiate to shoulders, arm, neck or jaw
  • profuse sweating
  • palpitations or rapid heartbeats
  • profound fatigue

Symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest include:

  • sudden collapse
  • no breathing
  • no pulse
  • loss of consciousness

Dr. Hayes stresses that when in doubt about symptoms, seek care. Call 911. Especially if you have an underlying heart issue.

Journalists: Sound bites with Dr. Hayes are available in the downloads.