Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is a life-threatening emergency that occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating. It strikes people of all ages who may seem to be healthy, even children and teens. When SCA happens, the person collapses and doesn’t respond or breathe normally. They may gasp or shake as if having a seizure. SCA leads to death in minutes if the person does not get help right away.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is the leading cause of death in the U.S., taking the lives of 356,000 people annually. But what most people are not aware of is that SCA is the #1 killer of student athletes and contributes to the #2 medical cause of death among youth under age 25.
The underlying cause of SCA is often an electrical or structural heart abnormality you’re born with (often inherited) and/or can develop as young hearts grow. SCA can also be triggered from a viral illness, or a blow to the chest from an object or a person. It can also occur secondary to other conditions, such as heart attack, heat stroke, asthma, drowning, electrocution, allergic reaction or medication.
Too often risk factors and symptoms of a potential heart condition get missed at home, on the field and in the doctor’s office. We need to be more intentional about the cardiac risk assessment of our youth. Let’s stop checking the box and check in on family heart history and warning signs that put kids at risk for sudden cardiac arrest.
People often use these terms interchangeably, but they are not synonyms. A heart attack is when blood flow to the heart is blocked, and sudden cardiac arrest is when the heart malfunctions and suddenly stops beating unexpectedly. A heart attack is a “circulation” problem and sudden cardiac arrest is an “electrical” problem.
1 in 300 youth has an undetected heart condition that puts them at risk for sudden cardiac arrest – the #1 killer of student athletes and part of the #2 medical cause of death under 25. Many heart conditions go unrecognized either because there are no symptoms, or symptoms are not recognized and family risk factors are unknown. Know the warning signs and check your child’s heart.