Taking Steps to Reduce Sudden Cardiac Death
By Jonathan Mauser, MD, FACC
Each year an estimated
300,000 to 400,000 people succumb to sudden cardiac death, making it a major
health problem in this country. In our own community, sudden death is all too
There are steps
we can take, however, to reduce the number of fatalities from sudden death and
change these tragic outcomes. We can start by educating ourselves about
cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and working together to increase the
availability of automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) in our community.
What is sudden
is natural, unpredictable death from cardiac causes. Biological death will
ensue within minutes without life-saving interventions. Among sudden death victims
over the age of 35 in the United States, 80 percent have coronary artery
disease (CAD). CAD is less common in young adults. In young males, 75 percent
of those who die of CAD present initially with sudden death.
Over the age of
35, one person in 1,000 per year is at risk for sudden death. Only 26 percent
of them get CPR, which buys them time until a defibrillator can arrive.
Survival to discharge from the hospital ranges from 1 to 5 percent.
is sudden death?
A small fraction
of sudden death victims do have existing heart rhythm problems, weakened
hearts, or a history of fainting and exercise limitation. These and other less
common heart conditions, which may predispose them to sudden death, can be
treated with medications, implantable defibrillators, angioplasty, or surgery.
However, most people who die suddenly have no identified risks. This is why it
is so important for us to know what to do if someone collapses.
steps can I take to reduce the incidence of sudden death in Tompkins County?
situations, CPR is critical to sustain people through the first few minutes.
Having AEDs widely available in the community is also crucial and can
dramatically improve people’s chances for survival. Not everyone can be saved,
despite our best efforts, but there has been dramatic improvement in outcomes
when bystanders knew CPR and there has been an AED available. The right skills
and the right equipment can make all the difference.
is very important. You should know CPR so you can do something positive in the
event of an emergency and be more comfortable in knowing what to do.
To organize a CPR
class at your place of worship or where you work, just call Cayuga Medical
Center at (607) 274-4321 to contact David Jensen, RN. He teaches classes in CPR
and advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) at the medical center and is also
available for community classes. A nurse and full-time fire fighter, David
teaches CPR for family and friends (which provides instruction, but not
certification), as well as CPR for people who require certification. The class
fee runs from $5 to $30 depending on the type of CPR instruction needed.
positive step to take is to work toward the widespread availability of AEDs in
all supermarkets, restaurants, banks, shopping centers, businesses, and other
locations where people gather. By working together, we can make a difference.
Dr. Mauser is
presenting a free community lecture on sudden death in the DeWitt Clinton
Auditorium at Kendal at Ithaca on Friday, June 12, at 2 p.m. Dr. Mauser is a
fellow of the American College of Cardiology, serves on the medical staff of
Cayuga Medical Center, and is in practice with Cayuga Cardiology, where he can
be reached at (607) 269-0100.