Sudden death in people under the age of 35, though rare, is often due to hidden heart defects, other heart abnormalities, cardiac arrest or heart attack. When these sudden deaths occur, it’s often during physical activity, such as athletic training or a sporting event.
Cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack. Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the heart becomes rapid or irregular due to force or changes in the pumping action of the heart, which then causes the heart to begin a heart rhythm that is not life sustaining, therefore the heart will suddenly stop beating. A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to part of the heart muscle is blocked and oxygen is no longer being pumped to that area. To have a myocardial infarction means the heart muscle (myo- means muscle and -cardial means the heart) has died due to lack of oxygen (infarct) which results in the heart attack. The heart attack then may cause cardiac arrest and ultimately death.
The most common cause of cardiac arrest is a dysrhythmia called ventricular fibrillation. Ventricular fibrillation is not a life sustaining heart rhythm. When this occurs, the ventricles in your heart (these are the bottom 2 chambers of your heart) begin to quiver uselessly instead of pumping blood. These dysrhythmias can occur in a person with a normal, healthy heart, when an outside trigger, such as an electrical shock or the use of illegal drugs is present. Ventricular fibrillation can also occur when there is trauma to the chest at just the right moment during the heart’s pumping cycle. This is called commotio cordis. Commotio cordis, though rare, can occur in anyone, though it’s usually heard about when it occurs in people who play sports. This type of trauma can happen when a baseball or hockey puck hits then chest. It can also occur with a simple kick or punch to the chest during that vulnerable moment in the heart beat. Cardiac arrest happens very quickly after impact, with the person having only seconds left before death occurs. Having every JKR instructor not only CPR certified, but recertified yearly to ensure competency will help to ensure the safety of all JKR participants.
CPR is a vital intervention for people that experience cardiac arrest. CPR can more than double a patient’s chances of survival, but unfortunately less than one-third of the people that experience cardiac arrest actually receive CPR prior to emergency personnel arriving. The poor response to bystander CPR is usually due to lack of confidence in one’s ability to perform CPR or their failure to recognize the signs of cardiac arrest. To improve the chances of survival, it is critical that all JKR instructors be both confident and competent in recognizing cardiac arrest and know how to take action immediately. The greatest barrier to a success is fear and fear can be eliminated through consistent yearly training and education in CPR.
Cost: Approximately $25 – $50 per person per year
Look for community events holding free CPR classes, non-profit organizations, groupon, and yelp
By: Jennifer Moreland, RN, MSN
JKR North Dakota