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Causes of Sudden Cardiac Arrest

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 9/22/2010

Have you or a loved one suffered from this condition? If so, read on to learn more about the causes of sudden cardiac arrest.

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    Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when a unexpected, sudden loss of heart function, consciousness, and breathing occurs. An electrical disturbance in the heart that interferes with the heart's pumping action, which results in the blood flow to the rest of the body being stopped is typically what it results from. The causes of sudden cardiac arrest are important to know to help avoid this medical emergency.

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    Coronary Artery Disease

    This condition occurs when the small blood vessels responsible for supplying the heart with oxygen and blood become narrowed. A condition referred to as atherosclerosis is the most common cause. Patients with this condition may experience:

    • Chest pain
    • Chest pressure or discomfort
    • Shortness of breath
    • Becoming fatigued with activity
    • Weakness
    • Fatigue
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    Heart Attack

    A heart attack occurs when the blood vessels responsible for supplying the heart with blood are blocked, resulting in oxygen being prevented from getting to the heart. This heart muscle becomes permanently damaged or dies. This condition is also referred to as myocardial infarction. The most common cause of heart attacks is a blood clot that is blocking a coronary artery. Symptoms can include:

    • Chest pain that can move to the arms, neck, shoulder, jaw, back, teeth, or belly area
    • Anxiety
    • Fainting
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Shortness of breath
    • Cough
    • Dizziness or feeling lightheaded
    • Palpitations
    • Sweating (can be severe)
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    Ventricular Fibrillation

    This is the most common cause of sudden cardiac arrest. Fibrillation is best described as an uncontrolled quivering or twitching of muscle fibers. When this condition occurs, sudden cardiac arrest can result due to the blood not being removed from the heart. This condition can result in the patient suddenly losing consciousness or collapsing. About an hour before the collapse, the patient may experience:

    • Chest pain
    • Nausea
    • Shortness of breath
    • Dizziness
    • Rapid heartbeat
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    Enlarged Heart

    An enlarged heart is actually a symptom of a disease and not a disease in itself. It can be caused by a number of conditions, such as high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy, arrhythmia, pulmonary hypertension, heart valve disease, congenital heart defect, anemia, hemochromatosis, thyroid disorders, amyloidosis, or sometimes the cause is not known. Symptoms can include:

    • Breathing difficulties
    • Dizziness
    • Swelling
    • Shortness of breath
    • Abnormal heart rhythm
    • Cough
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    Valvular Heart Disease

    This condition occurs when a defect or damage to one of the four heart valves occurs. It can be caused by a number of things, such as high blood pressure, radiation therapy, atherosclerosis, or heart attack. Symptoms may include palpitations, fatigue, fever, chest pain, dizziness with fainting, and rapid weight gain.

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    Congenital Heart Disease

    Congenital heart disease is a condition in which heart function and structure problems result from an abnormal heart development prior to birth. There are two different types, including non-cyanotic and cyanotic. The symptoms depend on the particular condition.

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    Electrical Problems in the Heart

    The heart's electrical system can sometimes cause this condition. These are referred to as primary heart rhythm abnormalities. Some electrical problems include long QT syndrome and Brugada syndrome.

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    Resources

    MayoClinic.com. (2010). Sudden Cardiac Arrest Causes. Retrieved on September 12, 2010 from MayoClinic.com: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sudden-cardiac-arrest/DS00764/DSECTION=causes

    National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. (2009). What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest? Retrieved on September 12, 2010 from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/scda/scda_whatis.html