Sudden cardiac arrest—a condition where defective electrical activity in the heart causes the heart to stop—seems to happen without warning. However, new research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows that more than half of sudden cardiac arrest patients ignored symptoms occurring up to a month before the attack.
Sudden cardiac arrest is often fatal, but getting early medical intervention could potentially save lives. According to the study, the difference in survival rates is substantial:
“If you’ve never experienced heart problems before and you now have on-and-off chest pain and shortness of breath, don’t ignore them. Contact your doctor right away and have it evaluated,” Dr. Patel said.
The research, conducted by the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, in collaboration with the Oregon Health & Science University Emergency Department, analyzed data on 839 patients in the Oregon Sudden Unexpected Death survey who had sudden cardiac arrest.
They found that in the four weeks before having a sudden cardiac attack:
People with symptoms should see their primary care physician for initial work up and then possibly referral to a cardiologist for further evaluation and testing. According to Dr. Patel, this guidance is particularly important for people in their middle ages and older. It’s better to seek medical attention early rather than risk a heart attack or sudden death.
Dr. Patel notes, “The most important thing is to not ignore potential heart attack symptoms, especially if you have risk factors such as a family history of heart disorders, smoking, diabetes, and/or poorly controlled cholesterol.”