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Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention

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.

How Can Death Due to Sudden Cardiac Arrest Be Prevented?

Ways to prevent death due to sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) differ depending on whether:

  • You've already had SCA
  • You've never had SCA but are at high risks for the condition
  • You've never had SCA and have no known risk factors for the condition​

For People Who Have Survived Sudden Cardiac Arrest

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.

Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator

Illustration of an implantable defibrillator 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.

For People Who Have No Known Risk Factors for Sudden Cardiac Arrest

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:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease or had a prior stroke
  • High LDL cholesterol levels

Your doctor also may prescribe other medications to:

  • Decrease your chance of having a heart attack or dying suddenly
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Prevent blood clots, which can lead to heart attack or stroke
  • Prevent or delay the need for a procedure or surgery, such as angioplasty or coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG)
  • Reduce your heart's workload and relieve coronary heart disease symptoms

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.

For People Who Have No Known Risk Factors for Sudden Cardiac Arrest

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.

Take the first step, knowing your risk, by completing our Coronary Artery Disease Health Evaluator »

Then, especially if you are high risk, consider a coronary calcium scoring test​ and family heart disease screening. From there, you and your doctor can identify and manage risk factors​​ to prevent sudden cardiac arrest.

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