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What Causes Sudden Cardiac Death?

Sudden cardiac death is usually caused by a sudden cardiac arrest. The heart just suddenly stops and circulation to the brain and body is stopped also. Breathing stops and the person dies very suddenly. When a person collapses with sudden cardiac arrest, he/she loses consciousness and becomes unresponsive. If not treated immediately the patient will die. This article will discuss how the heart and the pulmonary system works together to keep us alive. We will also discuss when things go wrong that can cause sudden cardiac death.

How the heart works

The heart is a muscular pump made of cardiac muscle; thus, the heart, combined with a network of veins and arteries and capillaries makes up the cardiovascular system. Your heart and vascular system works with your lungs and pulmonary vessels to make up the cardio-pulmonary system. These two systems work together to oxygenate the body and get rid of carbon dioxide and other gaseous wastes.

Your heart has an electrical system that drives the heart rhythm. As your heart beats the oxygen rich blood is circulated through the heart and into the large blood vessel that takes the blood to the body. The heart is also equipped for receiving oxygen poor blood from the lungs where the products of cellular respirations are blown off and fresh air with oxygen is picked up and sent back to the lungs. The oxygen is picked up from the capillaries around the air sacs of the lungs and sent to the cells of the body. Carbon dioxide is picked up from the blood stream by the capillaries in the lungs and we get rid of it when we exhale.

If something goes wrong with the heart or the lungs, you can fall unconscious very quickly and die if you aren’t rescued or treated in time. Most often, when a person has a sudden cardiac arrest it is due to a heart arrhythmia. An arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat. The heart could be beating much too fast or beating much too slow. Some arrhythmias cause the heart muscle to quiver. When the heart muscle quivers, it cannot beat and the blood cannot move out of the heart.

The heart’s electrical system tells the heart how to beat. An electrical signal begins in a group of cells called the SA (sinoatrial) node. The impulse from the SA node is located on the right side of the heart; it drives the contraction of the heart from the top to the bottom. In other words, the impulses from the SA node drive the contraction of the heart.  

There is another group of cells that we couldn’t live without. This group of cells is called the AV (atrioventricular) node. The AV node is located inside of the right atrium between the atrium and the ventricle. The function of the AV node is to slow down the contractions of the heart muscles so the chambers can empty. If anything went wrong with the AV node a person could collapse with a sudden heart attack.

There are other possible causes for sudden cardiac death. For instance, cardiac problems such as cardiomyopathy, atrial fibrillation, and long qt syndrome could possibly cause sudden cardiac arrest. A person could die without warning if he or she had a condition that went undiagnosed and untreated. It’s important to have yearly physicals, even if you are in good health. You never know when you could have a cardiac problem.

This article was checked with The Plagiarism Checker at Dustball.com and found to be orignial.

Sources:

Arrhythmias

Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Nursing Knowledge

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Comments (2)

Excellent information - so much appreciated. We should never take life for granted. My Dad died instantly from a cerebral clot to the brain. The shock is enormous. My heart goes out to anyone who has lost a loved one so instantly.

Thanks Susan. I'm so sorry for your loss. It is difficult to deal with a death that occurs so suddenly. I knew a kid in school who just dropped dead on the track. Nothing was wrong with him that anyone knew... he passed his physical to join the track team and one day during practice he just died on the track. My uncle also died suddenly. He sat down in the recliner and said he would rest until supper was ready. My aunt called him to supper but he didn't come. She went to wake him to come to supper and he was dead. It is very shocking when this happens.

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