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Women & Cardiac Arrest

Every year, about 350,000 people suffer sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) outside of a hospital setting with almost 90% of all cases being fatal.  While there is an underlying belief that heart problems such as SCA tend to be more of a concern for men, that’s not the case.  In fact, women make up almost 40% of SCA episodes.  Just as women may experience different symptoms of heart disease than men, their risk of SCA is somewhat different too. 


According to Nancy Dagefoerde, an advanced practice nurse with OSF Healthcare Cardiovascular Institute, SCA can happen to any adult over 30, depending on risk factors, family history, and other issues such as a heart birth defect. SCA is different than a heart attack, which occurs when there is a blockage in a coronary artery on the outside of the heart.  Many times, a heart attack si the cause of sudden cardiac arrest. 



Dagefoerde also says that symptoms can be different in women than men and because of that things may be missed.



Another reason why women are at a higher risk for SCA is because they are more likely to delay seeking care ofr their symptoms since women tend to worry about others in their family first.



Some symptoms of SCA include fainting, dizziness, racing or irregular heartbeat, chest pain, shortness of breath, and nausea.  Risk factors can include a previous heart attack, coronary artery disease, a prior episode of SCA, family history, and person or family history of abnormal heart rhythms among others. Dagefoerde says that having regular checkups can help.



If you see someone drop to the ground and think it could be SCA, call 9-1-1 immediately.  The faster CPR is started, and defibrillation is administered, the better the chances of survival. 

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