WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — October is Sudden Cardiac Awareness Month.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest is a condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating for various reasons. According to the American Heart Association, SCA claims one life every two minutes.
SCA is deadly because blood immediately stops flowing to the organs and to the brain. If not treated within minutes, a SCA can causes death.
Though there is a difference between a cardiac arrest and a heart attack.
A heart attack is when there’s blockage of blood flow through the coronary blood vessels. Those are the arteries that give blood directly to the heart muscle. When there’s a blockage, tissue dies and then we end up having what’s called a heart attack where the muscle just starts to die.
“[When the] heart can’t function, that can lead to sudden cardiac arrest. But having a heart attack isn’t a requirement for sudden cardiac arrest. Sudden cardiac arrest is simply an abnormal electrical impulse in the heart that affects the heart’s ability to beat,” said Dr. Yolandra Hancock, a pediatrician at Generational Health Center in Prince George’s County.
Hancock said there are warning signs to look for, especially in younger athletes. She said to take a look at personal history.
“Does the student-athlete have a history of significant exertion when they exercise outside of their norm? Have they ever felt lightheaded or passed out on the field? Have they ever felt like their heart was beating abnormally fast or with an abnormal rhythm?” she asked.
Hancock said to also look at family history.
“Knowing whether or not there’s a family member who died suddenly and no one knew the reason why, or if a family member had heart disease at an early age, earlier than the age of 55,” she said.
If there is a known family history of “abnormal heart rhythm” then that is “critically important,” Hancock said.
“The third component is actually coming in to see your health care provider and undergoing that cardiac evaluation,” Hancock said.
She said there is an increase in sudden cardiac arrest that appears be tied to COVID-19.
“The link between COVID-19 and sudden cardiac arrest is real. We know that with COVID-19 inflames the heart muscle leading to things like myocarditis,” Hancock said.
When there is an inflammation of the heart muscle, or myocarditis, that can impact the electrical impulse that’s sent through the heart muscle to keep it beating strong and keeping our ourselves healthy, according to Hancock.
“There is a direct link between COVID-19 and increased risk of sudden cardiac arrest. We have not yet been able to quantify the percentages or the link in terms of risk, but we do know that there is an elevated risk simply because of the impact that COVID 19 has on the heart,” she said.