It’s the third leading cause of death in the United States, claiming some 450,000 lives per year — but cardiac arrest doesn’t receive the attention that goes to diseases such as diabetes (about 80,000 deaths) or stroke (140,000). Because it is a “sudden” condition, many home caregivers and patients think there is little that can be done to prevent death from this condition. But a recent study indicates there are steps that can be taken to lessen the likelihood of cardiac arrest or of death from it. Since this condition strikes mostly older adults, home caregivers of seniors are advised to know these prevention suggestions and to ask a patient’s doctor about them.
Among the suggested prevention strategies are:
- Stopping smoking, which is one of the most important things a person can do.
- Minimizing alcohol intake.
- Maintaining an appropriate level of physical activity.
- Being careful about diet. Home caregivers should work with a doctor or nutritionist to suggest a diet that covers the important nutritional needs and cuts down on detriments such as bad cholesterol.
- Searching the family history for sudden cardiac deaths. If there is a valid history, patients may need to be screened for left ventricular dysfunction.
- Learning how to do CPR and how to use an automated external defibrillator. (Often community centers or the local American Red Cross may offer courses in these areas.) If a patient is a high risk for cardiac arrest, obtaining an automated external defibrillator for the home might be recommended.
- Utilizing anti-arrhythmia medications if a previous heart condition increases the likelihood of cardiac arrest.
- Considering an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) if past cardiac issues indicate a likelihood that cardiac arrest could be likely.
Even if there is no indication that a patient is likely to suffer cardiac arrest, home caregivers should take at least one step: Consulting with a doctor to determine if screening is necessary and if so, the frequency of screening.