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Aug 09, 2013

Study Highlights Need For More AEDs

Availability of life-saving devices must be widespread in public places.

Although exercise is one of the best ways to reduce risk for heart disease, engaging in physical activity temporarily raises risk for sudden cardiac arrest—a sudden, unexpected loss of heart function, breathing and consciousness. That’s why more and more public places, including gyms, have automated external defibrillators (AEDs) readily available for people to use when necessary. AEDs are life-saving portable devices that shock a person’s heart back into rhythm after suffering sudden cardiac arrest, greatly increasing chances of survival. But not all public places have these life-saving devices and some may need them more than others, according to a recent study.

Published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, this study compared the number of sudden cardiac arrests taking place in Washington state between 1996 to 2008 in various types of public places. Researchers looked at three types of public venues: traditional exercise facilities, alternative exercise facilities and other indoor locations. Traditional exercise facilities included gyms and fitness centers where people purposefully go to work out, while alternative exercise facilities included less formal places where people are active, such as bowling alleys, dance studios and even the workplace. The final category of public places—other indoor locations—included places such as shopping centers, airports and restaurants.

After tapping into detailed records of cardiac arrests during this 12-year period, researchers found that more sudden cardiac arrests took place in alternative exercise facilities—specifically tennis facilities, indoor ice arenas and bowling alleys—than at gyms and fitness centers. However, people were more likely to survive after suffering sudden cardiac arrest in any type of exercise center compared to other public places, like restaurants and banks. Interestingly, cardiac arrest victims were more likely to be male than female, and were more likely to receive immediate treatment (CPR or AED use) in a gym vs. alternative exercise facilities and other public places.

Based on these findings, experts impress the importance of placing AEDs in all public places and educating the public about these devices. Although many public places have AEDs—some by choice and others by law—regulations should require that these life-saving devices be available in all public places, especially places where people are active. Although people should by no means shy away from physical activity, exercise does slightly increase risk for sudden cardiac arrest temporarily and public places should be equipped to handle emergency situations. Immediate treatment can drastically increase a person’s chance of survival following sudden cardiac arrest and widespread availability of AEDs could save thousands of lives each year.

Using AEDs

(Click to view infographic)

Read the full article in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is sudden cardiac death?

  • Sudden cardiac death can result from sudden cardiac arrest, when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. Sudden cardiac arrest must be immediately addressed with CPR and medical attention to improve chances of survival.
  • Who is most at risk for sudden cardiac death?

  • Men are 2-3 times more likely to have sudden cardiac arrest than women. Risk also increases with age, particularly in those with heart disease or other cardiovascular conditions, such as an arrhythmia or heart failure. It is important to address any cardiovascular risk factors or conditions to reduce risk for sudden cardiac arrest and death.

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