Sudden cardiac arrest may not be so sudden, say researchers, adding that warning signs are common, but are often ignored, in the weeks preceding a heart attack.
According to an article published in Annals of Internal Medicine, sudden cardiac arrest may not be an entirely unexpected event. Warning signs are common in the days and weeks leading up to a heart attack, but those symptoms are often ignored. Attention to symptoms and early interventions may improve survival.
Sudden cardiac arrest is almost always fatal, so finding ways to prevent it is important. Researchers hypothesized that the presence of and response to warning symptoms that occur in the hours, days, and weeks preceding heart attack may be associated with better survival. They collected information about the 4 weeks before sudden cardiac arrest from survivors, family members, friends, medical records, and emergency response records to determine what symptoms, if any, were present. Symptoms were classified as chest pain (typical or atypical), difficulty breathing, palpitations, sudden drop in blood pressure/loss of consciousness, and other (including abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting, back pain).
The researchers found that about one half of patients with available information had warning symptoms in those 4 weeks that often recurred during the 24 hours before sudden cardiac arrest. Most patients ignored their symptoms, but the patients who called 911 significantly increased chances for survival. The authors suggest that these findings highlight the potential importance of developing new community-based strategies for short-term prevention of sudden cardiac arrest.
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