The recent death of James Gandolfini, who played mafia boss Tony Soprano in the hit TV series The Sopranos, and recent malpractice cases are reminders that healthcare providers need to be on alert for the risk factors of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).
SCA is the unexpected loss of heart function, breathing, and consciousness. In SCA, the electrical system of the heart fails and, at times, a heart attack may occur concurrently.
About half of people who suffer SCA had no previous symptoms, such as fatigue, dizziness, and racing heart rate. Approximately 325,000 people in the U.S. die from SCA annually. People who smoke or have coronary artery disease, have had a previous heart attack, have high cholesterol, and/or have a family history of heart disease have a higher risk.
These tips can help providers avoid misdiagnosis of SCA:
- Consider the possibility of advanced cardiac risk in patients who:
–• Are overweight and unable to control their weight with diet and exercise.
–• Have high blood pressure not responsive to medication.
–• Have evidence of erectile dysfunction.
–• Are glucose intolerant.
–• Have consistently high cholesterol levels.
–• Have a history of alcoholism.
- Take into account other factors associated with SCA, including:
–• Incidence increases with age—men after age 45 and women after age 55.
–• Men are two to three times more likely to have SCA than women.
–• Personal or family history of heart rhythm disorders, congenital heart defects, heart failure, or cardiomyopathy.
–• Use of illegal drugs (amphetamines or cocaine).
–• Nutritional imbalances (low potassium or magnesium levels).