Common risk factors can affect your chances of preventing sudden cardiac arrest. To help reduce your risk, maintain regular follow-up appointments with your cardiologist, make lifestyle changes, take prescribed medications and, if necessary, have interventional procedures.
Ways to prevent death due to sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) differ depending on whether:
If you've already had SCA, you're at high risk of having it again. Research shows that an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) reduces the chances of dying from a second SCA. An ICD is surgically placed under the skin in your chest or abdomen. The device has wires with electrodes on the ends that connect to your heart's chambers. The ICD monitors your heartbeat.
If the ICD detects a dangerous heart rhythm, it gives an electric shock to restore the heart's normal rhythm. Your doctor may give you medicine to limit irregular heartbeats that can trigger the ICD.
The illustration shows the location of an implantable cardioverter defibrillator in the upper chest. The electrodes are inserted into the heart through a vein.
An ICD isn't the same as a pacemaker. The devices are similar, but they have some differences. Pacemakers give off low-energy electrical pulses. They're often used to treat less dangerous heart rhythms, such as those that occur in the upper chambers of the heart. Most new ICDs work as both pacemakers and ICDs.
If you have severe
coronary heart disease (CHD), you're at increased risk for SCA. This is especially true if you've recently had a heart attack.
Your doctor may prescribe a type of medicine called a beta blocker to help lower your risk for SCA. Your doctor also may discuss beginning statin treatment if you have an elevated risk for developing heart disease or having a stroke. Doctors usually prescribe statins for people who have:
Your doctor also may prescribe other medications to:
Take all medicines regularly, as your doctor prescribes. Don't change the amount of your medicine or skip a dose unless your doctor tells you to. You should still follow a heart-healthy lifestyle, even if you take medicines to treat your coronary heart disease.
Other treatments for coronary heart disease - such as percutaneous coronary intervention, also known as coronary angioplasty, or coronary artery bypass grafting - also may lower your risk for SCA. Your doctor may also recommend an ICD if you're at high risk for SCA.
CHD seems to be the cause of most SCAs in adults. CHD also is a major risk factor for angina (chest pain or discomfort) and heart attack, and it contributes to other heart problems.
Following a healthy lifestyle can help you lower your risk for CHD, SCA, and other heart problems. A heart-healthy lifestyle includes:
Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The Heart Hospital Baylor offers a full range of wellness and prevention programs designed to help you improve heart health and live a healthier life.
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Physicians are members of the medical staff at one of Baylor Health Care System's subsidiary, community or affiliated medical centers and are neither employees nor agents of those medical centers, Baylor Scott & White The Heart Hospital – Plano or Baylor Health Care System.