Causes of Cardiac Arrest

Sudden cardiac arrest is an unexpected death occurs when heart suddenly or unexpectedly stop beating. If this happens, blood stop flowing to the brain and other vital organs and the result is sudden death, occurs in a short time period generally within few minutes of symptom onset. Most common causes of cardiac arrest is previously heart problem or illegal drugs that cause cardiac arrest, heart attack or cardiac death.

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is a life threatening natural disaster and is the largest cause of death, more than 7 million peoples lost their lives worldwide while in U.S. it cause more than 300,000 death every year.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest Symptoms

It is vital to aware of symptoms of diseases for better treatment, here are most common symptoms of cardiac arrest that are immediate and drastic.

  • Sudden Collapse
  • No Pulse
  • No Breathing
  • Unconsciousness

These are the common symptoms while other symptoms precede cardiac arrest include fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, blackout or palpitation. But remember in some case, sudden cardiac arrest occurs with no warning message.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest or Heart Attack?

Causes of Cardiac Arrest: Get Life Saving Facts
Heart Attack or Sudden Cardiac Arrest, Causes of Cardiac Arrest

The heart is an electrical pump which requires an electrical pumping system to circulate blood and to squeeze heart muscles. When these electrically pumping system to heart malfunction, heart rhythm become very irregular or heart beat dangerously fast. Remember SCA is different from heart attack (occur due to blockage of one or more blood vessels in the heart) but this electrical irritability is related to heart attack and can cause a fatal heart rhythm.  .

Causes of Cardiac Arrest, Why it Happens

Below, some most common causes of this electrical system to fail working and result in sudden cardiac arrest.

The immediate cause of SCA is abnormality in your heart rhythm, arrhythmia called ventricular fibrillation or v-fib, during the arrhythmia the heart can beat too slow, too fast or with irregular rhythm cause most sudden cardiac arrest.

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the major risk factor of sudden cardiac arrest. Most people who have SCA are later found to have some degree of CAD. This is silent CAD without any sign and symptoms, most doctors, health advisor, nurses and people don’t know about coronary artery diseases (cardiovascular disease) until SCA occurs.

Causes of Cardiac Arrest: Get Life Saving Facts
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), Causes of Cardiac Arrest

Sudden cardiac arrest may be caused by hyperkalemia, abnormally high potassium level in blood stream or significant changes in blood levels of magnesium.

About 80% causes of cardiac arrest and heart problems are linked with coronary artery disease, risk factors include smoking, high cholesterol, hypertension, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes or some family history of heart disease.

Thickened heart muscles (cardiomyopathy) from any cause or a thickened waxy substance called plaque buildup in the coronary arteries can make you more prone to sudden cardiac arrest.

Personal or family history of previously heart problems such as congenital heart diseases, heart rhythm disorders, previously heart failure, heart attack or a previous episode of cardiac arrest are at higher risk of SCA. More than 70% cases of SCA are linked to previously heart attack.

Brugada’s syndrome and Lengthening of QT interval in the heart result in sudden change of electrical pulse. LQTS disorder can cause sudden, abnormal and dangerous heart rhythm.

Men are more likely (2-3 times than women) experience sudden cardiac arrest.

Sudden cardiac diseases occur rarely in young athletes (more likely occur while playing team sports) with previously undetected heart problems. In younger athletes, SCD is often caused by congenital heart defects while in older athletes the causes of cardiac arrest is related to coronary artery diseases.

See: Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) & AEDs: A Real Lifesaver Treatment

For More Information regarding sudden cardiac death or other related resources, please see:

Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndromes Foundation:

  • A nonprofit organization, established to help and prevent sudden cardiac death in children and young adults.
  • Address: 508 E South Temple Ste. 20, Salt Lake City, UT 84102
  • Phone: 1-800-786-7723
  • Website:

Published: 01/21/2016
Last Medical Review: 03/07/2016

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