what is

Sudden Cardiac Death

Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is an abrupt death caused by a malfunction in the heart (sudden cardiac arrest). SCD is responsible for half of all deaths related to heart disease and is the largest cause of natural death in the United States.

Although sudden cardiac death most commonly occurs in adults in their 30s and 40s, the American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that approximately
2,000 people under the age of 25 die from sudden cardiac arrest in the US every year.

Sudden cardiac death occurs when the electrical system of the heart unexpectedly becomes irregular. Instead of a contracting rhythmically as with a normal heartbeat, the muscles of the heart suddenly ‘quiver’ rapidly. This ‘quivering’ or ‘arrhythmia’ (irregular heartbeat) prevents the heart from delivering blood to the body and brain.

Time to Defib chart

The major concern is that if the arrhythmia is not treated and resolved in less than four to six minutes, the chance of permanent brain damage and death is increased dramatically.  It is estimated that up to 95% of people who have cardiac arrest die before they even reach a hospital.

In the 1990’s, the Centers for Disease Control and the American Heart Association reported a significant increase in deaths resulting from sudden cardiac arrest among young adults. Sudden cardiac death can occur in anybody however, the risk can be up to three times higher in competitive athletes. Once believed to be extremely rare, SCD is becoming more common in young athletes than once thought. Although, participating in more strenuous activities such as basketball, football and soccer is not known to cause sudden cardiac death; it may, however, trigger SCD by aggravating an undetected heart condition.


how to prevent

Sudden Cardiac Death

An ECG (electrocardiogram) test is an easy method of diagnosing many of the electrical abnormalities that can lead to sudden cardiac death.

Recent advances in medical technology now allows you to monitor your heart from wherever you are using portable ECG devices. A major advantage of these new portable devices over the traditional ECG test, is that you can now take a heart measurement at the moment you feel symptoms. These devices store your ECGs and can later be downloaded and printed from a computer, or sent to a physician, clinic, or ECG coordinating centre for analysis.

An ECG test is recommended if you've had a sudden cardiac death in the family or if you have any of the following signs or symptoms:

  • Breathlessness
  • Palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Exercise related symptoms

If you experience somebody having a sudden cardiac arrest
, immediately dial 911 and begin to administer CPR.  If done properly, CPR may retain just enough oxygen in the lungs and brain until a normal heartbeat can be restored with a defibrillator (electric shock to the chest). For every minute that goes by the person’s odds of survival drop by 10%.  If available, public access defibrillators (AEDs) may be used in the absence of emergency personnel.