Increased Risk Factors for Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac Arrest Increases Among Obese People

Cardiac arrest is a sudden life-threatening event that can be fatal. Calling 911 and having someone perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or use a defibrillator can save lives.

Research has shown that reducing cardiovascular risk factors and treating unrecognized heart disease can reduce the incidence of sudden cardiac death. But that doesn’t always happen.

1. Increased Substance Abuse

Substance abuse has many effects on overall health, but one of the most harmful impacts is in terms of cardiovascular health. Whether from alcohol or illicit drugs, long-term substance abuse can cause serious and sometimes life-threatening complications for the heart. This is why it’s important to understand the connection between drug addiction and heart disease so that individuals can make informed decisions about their future health.

For example, long-term cocaine use can lead to high blood pressure. Over time, this can increase the strain on the heart and can lead to heart failure or a tear in the aortic wall called an aortic dissection. In a recent study, researchers found that drug use is linked to higher rates of emergency department visits and hospital admissions for heart failure. The most significant increases in these incidences were observed for cannabis and psychostimulants (including stimulants like Adderall and cocaine). These substances put a heavy load on the heart and can accelerate cholesterol build-up in the arteries, explains Dr. Bhamidipati.

2. Increased Stress

Cardiac arrest happens when changes in the normal electrical activity of your heart cause it to stop beating. Without a beating heart, your body can’t get oxygen-carrying blood to the brain and other organs. Without immediate medical care, you can die within minutes. People who experience cardiac arrest often lose consciousness, have no breathing or a faint pulse (fainting).

In some cases, warning signs can occur before cardiac arrest, such as chest pain or fatigue. These can signal that there’s a problem with the arteries that carry blood to your heart. These problems may be caused by coronary artery disease, electrolyte abnormalities, heart muscle diseases or structural issues in the heart.

But stress can also increase your risk of sudden cardiac arrest. This is because your body’s natural response to stressful situations activates an immune system process that can cause inflammation and hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis. This increases your risk of a heart attack and can trigger an arrhythmia that leads to cardiac arrest.

3. Increased Obesity

Over the past few years, cardiac arrest mortality has increased in the United States and Australia after long term declines. These adverse trends have coincided with an increase in the percentage of people who are overweight and obese.

More than 356,000 Americans suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrest each year, and 90% of these cases are fatal. Emergency treatment includes cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and electrical shock known as defibrillation, which restores a normal heart rhythm.

Extra pounds don’t directly cause heart attacks, but they can make you more likely to have other dangerous conditions that do, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. And they can contribute to sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea, which also increase heart attack risk.

Obesity is associated with increased incidence of hypertension, dyslipidemia, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes mellitus and obstructive sleep apnea. It exerts direct adverse effects on the cardiovascular system through influencing the associated risk factors as well as through indirect mechanisms such as eccentric left ventricular hypertrophy and elevated inflammatory markers including IL6 and TNF.

4. Increased Smoking

Heart disease is a significant cause of death among smokers. Researchers have found that people who smoke, regardless of whether they have existing heart disease, are more likely to die from a first-time cardiovascular event than nonsmokers. The increased risk is most noticeable among middle-aged men and women.

In the Nurses’ Health Study, women with no history of heart disease who smoked had almost two and a half times the risk of sudden cardiac death than healthy women who didn’t smoke. For every five years of smoking, their risk of sudden cardiac death increased by 8 percent.

Smokers are also more likely to have episodes of ventricular tachyarrhythmias, which is one type of abnormal heart rhythm that can lead to sudden cardiac arrest. For these reasons, it’s important for smokers to quit smoking or at least reduce their cigarette intake.

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