What is Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD)

According to the Cleveland Clinic, sudden cardiac death (SCD) occurs when there is a sudden, unexpected death from a loss of heart function (sudden cardiac arrest). Sudden cardiac death results from an electrical malfunction in the rhythm of the heart. This is called an arrhythmia and it causes the heart to beat extremely fast so that the blood pressure suddenly drops to a dangerously low point. Sometimes the person will first get some warning symptoms like dizziness and a racing heart, but many times there is absolutely no warning whatsoever.

Sudden Cardiac Death can Leave a Person with Brain Damage

Even if someone is resuscitated back to life from sudden cardiac death, they can be left with considerable brain damage from the lack of blood flow to the brain during the time the heart stopped beating.

Sudden Cardiac Death is Largest Cause of Natural Death in the United States

Sudden cardiac arrest is not a heart attack, but it can occur during a heart attack. In the United States it is the largest cause of natural death and is the main cause of half of the deaths from heart disease. About 325,000 deaths a year are caused by SCD.

SCD is not a Heart Attack

A heart attack results from a blockage to the blood flow going in to the heart and the heart muscle does not receive enough oxygen to function properly. However, sudden cardiac death is an electrical malfunction that causes the heart to beat dangerously fast and the blood pressure to drop down to zero. Unless there is instant emergency cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), the person dies. CPR has to be maintained until professional emergency help arrives to restore the normal heart rhythm with an electric shock to the chest by a defibrillator. The defibrillator gives an electric shock to the heart to start the heart to beat again.

Risk Factors for Sudden Cardiac Death

  • History of a previous heart attack
  • Coronary artery disease (CAD)
  • Congenital heart problems
  • Ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation after a heart attack
  • Family history of abnormal heart rhythms
  • A previous sudden cardiac arrest
  • Blood vessel defects
  • Ejection fraction (EF) of less than 40% (Measurement of the amount of blood pumped out of the heart with each heart beat)
  • Fainting spells from an unknown cause (syncope)
  • Congestive heart failure (CHF)
  • Problems with the muscles of the heart
  • Imbalance in the blood levels of potassium and magnesium possibly from diuretics
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Certain kinds of drugs that affect the rhythm of the heart
  • Drug abuse

Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Sudden Cardiac Death

  • Quit smoking
  • Get enough physical exercise
  • Manage blood sugar levels in diabetes
  • Lose weight if overweight

Medications to Prevent SCD

Your doctor may also prescribe certain heart medications to prevent SCD such as:

  • Statins
  • ACE inibitors
  • Beta blockers
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Antiarrhythmics

The Need for Short or Long-term Rehabilitation

If brain damage has occurred during the time the heart stopped beating, there may be a need to go to a rehab to regain lost cognitive or motor skills.

The Royal Suites Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Galloway Township, New Jersey

The Royal Suites Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Galloway Township, New Jersey offers expert cardiac rehabilitation and also long-term skilled nursing care at its best.


Sudden cardiac arrest shows that there is a need for people to learn how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), as every second counts and by the time first responders arrive the person may already be dead unless CPR has already been initiated.

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