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It comes without warning; it kills within minutes. No wonder, Sudden Cardiac Death or SCD has been called the widow maker’s disease. In Singapore, about 1000 women lose their husbands to SCD yearly.

According to the National Heart Centre Singapore, about 90% of SCD occurs in males aged around 47 years old. Whereas for females, the average age of sudden cardiac death is about 50 years old.

What is SCD? What treatments are available to reduce the risk for sudden cardiac arrest?

SCD versus Heart Attack

SCD and heart attack are often confused. But SCD is not heart attack.

Heart attack is caused by blocked arteries that supply blood to your heart, therefore damaging a portion of your heart muscle. SCD is caused by abnormal and chaotic heart rhythms also known as ventricular fibrillation.

People who suffer SCD can have a heart rate of up to 400-500 beats per minute, which will render them unconscious. In comparison, the normal heart beat rate for adults at rest is only 60-100 beats per minute.

What Causes Abnormal & Chaotic Heart Rhythms?

One of the most common causes of abnormal and chaotic heart rhythms is coronary artery disease due to atherosclerosis, a condition where fatty plaques build up in the inner walls of the heart artery, causing a blockage. Up to 80% of individuals who suffered from SCD had coronary heart disease.

People who smoke, have high BP and high cholesterol; those who are diabetic, obese or live a sedentary lifestyle; are more likely to develop coronary heart disease, which can lead to SCD.

A person suffering from a sudden cardiac arrest will suddenly collapse, lose consciousness and eventually lose pulse. In short, their heart stops beating. When this happens, you will only have a window of four minutes to resuscitate the person; every minute of delay reduces the chance of survival by up to 10%.

In the event that you discover someone with the above symptoms, you must immediately call for an ambulance. While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, administer CPR or hook the person to an external automated defibrillator so his heart can start beating again.

What Treatments Are Available To Reduce The Risk Of Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

There are three heart surgery procedures available for people who are diagnosed to have high risk of having sudden cardiac arrest. These heart surgery procedures aim to reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death and are considered minor heart surgery that allows a person to recover fast.

  1. Angioplasty – This is a minor heart surgery that opens blocked arteries and restores the blood flow back to the heart by inserting and leading a catheter through a blood vessel in your arm or leg to your heart.
  2. Pacemakers – Through a minor heart surgery procedure, your doctor will implant a pacemaker just below the collarbone to help stimulate your heart to beat at a normal pace.
  3. Implantable defibrillators. Another minor heart surgery procedure that involves implanting a defibrillator, which will use electrical pulses or shocks, to awaken a heart that has stopped beating and help it beat normally again.

Preventing Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Aside from these minor heart surgery procedures, the best way to reduce your risk of sudden cardiac death is to make lifestyle changes that lower your risk profile.

Talk to your cardiologist at Harley Street Heart & Cancer Centre about available intervention programmes and lifestyle changes that will help you have a healthy heart today.