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What Increases Your Risk?

Why sudden cardiac arrest happens is not clearly understood. It is most often caused by a dangerous heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation.

SCA can happen to anyone at any age. But the risk can be greater among certain people. Individuals with close family members, like a parent or sibling, who have had SCA are more likely to experience SCA. Men and Black patients also are at greater risk.

Still, certain diseases or conditions can cause the heart’s electrical system to misfire and lead to SCA. These include:

• Coronary heart disease
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, in most cases an inherited condition, which causes structural changes in the heart (a thickened heart muscle/enlarged heart)
• Heart failure with reduced pumping function, often referred to as a low ejection fraction (ejection fraction less than 35%)
•  Heart attack – 75% of people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest were found to have had a heart attack, many of which went undiagnosed; survivors of heart attack are 4 to 6 times more likely to have SCA than the general population
• Physical stress such as trauma, blood loss, dehydration/electrolyte imbalance or (in rare cases) very intense physical activity
• Heart problems you are born with make you more prone to heart rhythm problems.

Potential Causes

  • Having a dangerous heart rhythm causing the heart to “short circuit” and stop beating
  • Being born with a heart defect
  • Other issues such as heart attack, poor heart function, physical stress; some drugs, drug overdose or toxins can also lead to heart rhythm problems

Some studies have linked SCA to low levels of potassium or magnesium in the body.

  • Last Edited 05/21/2024