CBS news reports on the important to know signs of a heart attack.
What doctors call ‘sudden cardiac arrest’ is a deadly condition that occurs when the heart unexpectedly stops beating. It has long confused physicians.
Sudden cardiac arrest kills more than 300,000 Americans each year, and was generally believed to come over a person without any warning signs.
A group of researchers published a new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, which shows that sudden cardiac arrest does have warning signs.
Dr. Sumeet Chugh, the senior author of the study, said their research, which included 839 patients between the ages of 35 and 65, found that many patients experience symptoms that warn of cardiac arrest in the days or weeks before getting hit with a sudden cardiac arrest.
Dr. Chugh told CBS news, “We used to think sudden death happens without warning, or very little warning -- a few minutes or an hour.” Dr. Chugh is the medical director of the Heart Rhythm Center in the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, and the Pauline and Harold Price Chair in Cardiac Electrophysiology Research.
Chugh’s study made the shocking revelation that about half of patients who have a sudden cardiac arrest first experience symptoms like intermittent chest pain and pressure, shortness of breath, and palpitations. They also said to look out for ongoing flu-like symptoms such as nausea, back and abdominal pain. But researchers found that 80% of these people ignore the symptoms.
Dr. Chugh said, “When these symptoms happen, in about half the people who have SCA [sudden cardiac arrest], the vast majority don't act upon the symptoms, and that's very perplexing.” The people who did not ignore the symptoms obviously did better health wise than the ones who did ignore them.
Sudden cardiac arrest is fatal in 90% of cases because it is when the pumping action of the heart stops and then blood flow to the rest of the body also stops.
What is the difference between sudden cardiac arrest and a heart attack?
A heart attack is when certain blood vessels are blocked and those vessels are needed to nourish your heart. Blocked vessels can lead to sudden cardiac arrest.
CBS News medical contributor Dr. Tara Narula, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, commented on the study.
She said, “The prognosis for sudden cardiac arrest is really dismal. It strikes people in the prime of their life, around the age of 65. And even when they recover, many are left with neurological damage.”
She also said that the most important thing is not to minimize or ignore the symptoms, particularly if they are symptoms like chest pain or shortness of breath, and especially if you have risk factors for coronary heart disease, which causes 70 percent of cardiac arrest.