Resource Post for October: National Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month



October 2008 is the first ever National Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) Awareness Month. To mark this event, let us a take a look at SCA.

What is sudden cardiac arrest?

SCA occurs when the heart suddenly stops working as a consequence of electrical malfunction so that blood supply to other parts of the body is also stopped. It could happen to anybody, to any of us, without warning.

Here are some statistics about SCA:

  • Most CVD deaths are SCA-related. SCA has a mortality rate of 95%.
  • One person dies of SCA-related events every two minutes. This equivalent to more 650 lives lost each day.
  • More people die of SCA-related events than from breast cancer, lung cancer, stroke, or AIDS.
  • SCA is not synonymous to a heart attack. A heart attack (myocardial infarction) occurs when a blood vessel supplying blood to the heart is blocked causing the heart muscle to starve and die. SCA occurs when the electrical system of the heart fails, e.g. “power failure” of the heart.

95% of those who experience SCA die because they do not receive life-saving defibrillation within 4 to 6 minutes, before brain and permanent death start to occur. It can happen to people of all ages – without warning – and even when there are warning signs, most don’t recognize them.

Lack of Awareness

According to a poll by the Heart Rhythm Society in 2007,

four out of five Americans vastly underestimate the severity of this serious public health issue that causes more than 250,000 deaths each year…

The poll results show that there is a lack of awareness among Americans regarding SCA. Here are some things that we should know:

  • SCA deaths are most common among women aged 35 to 44 years old.
  • African Americans have higher SCA risk than whites.
  • SCA can occur without warning even among people who have no previous signs of heart disease.
  • Many people do not know their risk for SCA, basically because there is currently no effective screening tool for SCA.
  • There is very little knowledge about preventive measures for SCA.

SCA treatments

SCA victims should receive emergency treatment within 4 to 6 minutes of the attack in order to have a chance to survive.

Life-saving treatments for SCA are:

See previous posts on AEDs and ICDs.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest Resolutions

In July of this year, US legislators introduced the Senate Concurrent Resolution 93 and House Concurrent Resolution 393, a move which led to the designation of October as the National Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) Awareness Month.

“The resolutions will support efforts to raise awareness about the risk of SCA, improve the public’s ability to identify warning signs, encourage individuals to seek medical attention in a timely manner and promote the need for further research into the causes of this leading killer”, according to the Heart Rhythm Society.

The passing of the resolutions were largely due to the lobbying efforts of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Coalition.

According to the coalition:

…while the federal government has made great strides in research and treatment advances for many of our major health threats – breast cancer, lung cancer, AIDS, and stroke – they have not yet done enough on SCA to educate the public or arm the medical community with the resources it needs… With increased federal funding for research, education, and access to treatment, we could go a long way towards saving lives.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest Coalition

The resolutions are supported by the organizations that comprise the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Coalition. The coalition is a result of 29 heart organizations and advocacy groups who joined forces to fight SCA.

The members include:

Photo credit: Stock.xchng photos by

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.
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