CARDIAC arrests can occur in even the healthiest of individuals - but why does it happen.

Doctor Chris Critoph, University Hospitals Dorset consultant cardiologist who specialises in heart failure, cardiac devices and inherited heart disease, will be covering this very subject during an online talk due to take place later today, July 28. 

The free event will run via Microsoft Teams from 6pm to 7pm. It i open to everyone and the link to the event can be found here. There is no need to book, simply click on the link at 6pm on the day.

A recording of the talk will also be available after the event.

Dr Critoph will talk about some of the causes of cardiac arrests, explaining what happens and early warning signs that people can look out for.

He will also cover treatment and the lifesaving devices like pacemakers and ICDs that can be used to help prevent future events.

Ahead of the session, the consultant answered a variety of questions from the Daily Echo.

What is a sudden cardiac arrest?

“The biggest thing to point often there is a misconception between heart attack and cardiac arrest. There are a lot of differences.

“A cardiac arrest is actually an electrical abnormality where the heart can no longer beat and so it requires a defibrillation – an electrical shock to be given.

“For example, sports people that drop dead on football pitches often aren’t having a heart attack, they are having a cardiac arrest.

“Conversely, a heart attack is when a heart artery blocks off and typically people will have pains in their chest and clutch their chest and call 999. It has a very different treatment.

“Cardiac arrests are sudden, they can occur completely out of the blue, they can occur in young people as well as older people and there are in some cases warning signs and some cases no warning signs.

“Typically, people who have a cardiac arrest the outcome isn’t great if I am honest. Nationally, about 30,000 people have a cardiac arrest outside hospitals each year and about five per cent of those receive bystander defibrillation.

“The prognosis overall is not great but the key is getting access to that defibrillation very quickly because the quicker you can get to it, the higher success rate and less likely people are to have problems.

“A lot of the problems relate to brain injuries. If you have a cardiac arrest, your brain isn’t receiving enough blood supply, so even if you then survive, people can often be left with brain damage, which they might die of that or they might survive and be left with disabilities.”

How important is every second when someone has a cardiac arrest?

“It is the case for heart attacks and cardiac arrests, but it is even more important in cardiac arrests.

“Education with regards to bystander cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR as it is called, is important because even if you don’t have a defib, if a passer-by or a relative or a friend can perform good quality CPR, that in a lot of cases is enough to keep that person going until an ambulance arrives and is available to defibrillate.

“It is amazing how many people you see whose husband or wife or partner, whoever it is, has been able to save the partner’s life.

“One point I would really like to get across is people can learn this, either online or there are various courses locally. It is something everyone can do.

“The British Heart Foundation has information on their website and it is an excellent resource.”

What can people do if they have concerns, such as screening or lifestyle?

“If you are looking at young athletes, average age in their 20s, it is very rare but around one in 50,000 people will have a sudden death.

“It tends to be more common in men – about a nine to 10 ratio – and more common in black compared to white athletes.

“If you look at sport as a whole, the most common cause is called SADS, which is sudden arrhythmic death syndrome. These things can come out of the blue and people don’t necessarily have a structural abnormality with their heart, but there are other causes.

“Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a common inherited heart problem and that can cause people to have cardiac arrests and that is very screened for with an ECG and an echocardiogram.

“One take home message would be to really know your family history. Get used to asking about what happened to uncles, aunts, grandparents, just to know if there is anything untoward.

“In older people, and by older I mean over the age of 35, furring up of the heart arteries is the most common cause. There a lot of different risk factors for that, but I would encourage people to know what their blood pressure is and get it checked every once in a while, have an assessment for diabetes, get your cholesterol checked, particularly over the age of 40, and have an active lifestyle.

“We know that moderate physical activity reduces the risk of heart failure by 25 per cent, so it is really important to get fit, but if you haven’t done any exercise for a long time, don’t just run to the gym and push yourself to the limit.

“Gyms will usually offer an assessment of your health beforehand.

“With exercise, the health benefits occur before any fitness benefits. People might think they are not really feeling any better, so what’s the point? Actually the studies show there is a health benefit which is sort of silent, you won’t know about it, you don’t feel fitter but you are doing yourself good.”

Where are we as a society about defibrillator availability in public places?

“We see them a lot more frequently than we did five years ago. There are some calls for it to be made law for gyms to have it, which I would fully support.

“You do see them in supermarkets, bowls clubs, various different sports clubs.

“I definitely think they are more widespread when they used to be but we can always do more.

“Every week we admit people with cardiac arrests that would have been potentially preventable had there been a defibrillator available.

“They talk you through it. All you have to do is put the sticky pads on and listen to the voice giving you the instructions and that is it. They are usually single button devices.”

What would be the key point for people with concerns to consider when it comes to cardiac arrests?

“Look at your modifiable risk factors. By that I mean know about your weight, your cholesterol, diabetes, blood pressure and your family history because they are things that anybody can and try make a significant on and improve things.

“And learn CPR, even if you just know the very basics because you just never know when you might need it.

“I have been in a few situations outside of work where I have been called upon to provide that sort of thing, so it will happen.”

Should children be trained in delivering CPR?

“I have taught my children. We have our phone numbers and 999 on the fridge and I have taught them ‘what to do if mummy or daddy collapses’ and they are seven and nine.

“All these little things can make a big difference.

“Not infrequently where you get these stories about young children who have managed to make some sort of intervention and saved a life.

“It can start young.”

What led to the talk taking place?

“It is quite topical at the moment because of Christian Erikson and a few other things in the media in recent weeks.

“In Bournemouth we put a lot of defibrillators in. When there is a tragedy people sit up and take notice for a bit and then unfortunately it tends to fade into the background.

“This is a good opportunity to do some public education around this and it is an area of interest of mine.

“I implant internal defibrillators and that is of course what Christian Erikson has now got.

“There are all sorts of bits about this with public education. Exercise, when it is healthy to and when people shouldn’t, and particularly things like promoting external defibrillators and automatic defibrillators available in public places.”