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Please add the profiles of those who died of a Cardiac Arrest

What is cardiac arrest?

(aka: Sudden Cardiac Arrest = SCA)
Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating in a person who may or may not have diagnosed heart disease. When this happens, blood flow to the brain and the rest of the body also stops. Cardiac arrest is a medical emergency. If it is not treated within a few minutes, cardiac arrest most often causes death.

  • The time and mode of death are unexpected. It occurs instantly or shortly after symptoms appear.
  • Cardiac arrest is caused when the heart's electrical system malfunctions. In cardiac arrest death results when the heart suddenly stops working properly. This may be caused by abnormal (too fast or too slow), or irregular, heart rhythms (called arrhythmias).
  • A common arrhythmia in cardiac arrest is ventricular fibrillation. This is when the heart's lower chambers suddenly start beating chaotically and don't pump blood. Death occurs within minutes after the heart stops. Cardiac arrest may be reversed if CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is performed and a defibrillator is used to shock the heart and restore a normal heart rhythm within a few minutes.

In 2006 the American Heart Association presented the following definitions of sudden cardiac arrest and sudden cardiac death:

  • "Cardiac arrest is the sudden cessation of cardiac activity so that the victim becomes unresponsive, with no normal breathing and no signs of circulation. If corrective measures are not taken rapidly, this condition progresses to sudden death. Cardiac arrest should be used to signify an event as described above, that is reversed, usually by CPR and/or defibrillation or cardioversion, or cardiac pacing. Sudden cardiac death should not be used to describe events that are not fatal"

Is a Heart Attack the same as Cardiac Arrest?

No they are NOT synonyms. The term "heart attack" is often mistakenly used to describe cardiac arrest. While a heart attack may cause cardiac arrest and sudden death, the terms don't mean the same thing.

  • A heart attack may be compared to a plumbing problem in the heart, while Sudden Cardiac Arrest may be compared to an electrical problem in the heart.
  • When people have heart attacks, they are awake, their hearts are beating, and they are able to communicate.
  • When people have SCA, they are not awake, their hearts are not beating, and they are unable to communicate.
  • Heart attacks can lead to SCA, but there also are many other causes.

There are many possible causes of SCA. They include coronary heart disease, physical stress, and some inherited disorders. Sometimes there is no known cause for the SCA.

Heart Attack: (or myocardial infarction)

  • A heart attack is a “circulation” problem.
  • A heart attack is when blood flow to the heart muscle is blocked.
  • Heart attacks are caused by a slowing or a blockage of the blood flow to the heart preventing oxygen-rich blood from reaching a section of the heart through one or more of the coronary arteries due to plaque in the blood vessel(s).
  • A heart attack refers to death of heart muscle tissue due to the loss of blood supply. This does NOT necessarily result in stopping the beating of the heart in the heart attack victim.
  • If the blocked artery is not reopened quickly, the part of the heart normally nourished by that artery begins to die. The longer a person goes without treatment, the greater the damage.
  • Symptoms of a heart attack may be immediate and intense. More often, though, symptoms start slowly and persist for hours, days or weeks before a heart attack.
    • The heart attack symptoms in women can be different than men.
  • Unlike with sudden cardiac arrest, the heart usually does not stop beating during a heart attack.

Cardiac Arrest:

  • Sudden cardiac arrest is when the heart malfunctions and suddenly stops beating unexpectedly and is an “electrical” problem.
  • Sudden cardiac arrest occurs suddenly and often without warning.
  • It is triggered by an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes abnormal or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). With its pumping action disrupted, the heart cannot pump blood to the brain, lungs and other organs. Seconds later, a person loses consciousness and has no pulse. Death occurs within minutes if the victim does not receive treatment.
  • These two distinct heart conditions are linked. Sudden cardiac arrest can occur after a heart attack, or during recovery.  Heart attacks increase the risk for sudden cardiac arrest. Most heart attacks do not lead to sudden cardiac arrest. But when sudden cardiac arrest occurs, heart attack is a common cause. Other heart conditions may also disrupt the heart’s rhythm and lead to sudden cardiac arrest. These include a thickened heart muscle (cardiomyopathy), heart failure, arrhythmias, particularly ventricular fibrillation, and long Q-T syndrome.

Causes of Cardiac Arrest (SCA)

  • Abnormal heart beat - Most cases of SCA are caused by a very fast heartbeat (ventricular tachycardia) or a very chaotic heartbeat (ventricular fibrillation). These irregular heart rhythms, called arrhythmias, may cause the heart to stop beating. Another type of arrhythmia, called bradycardia, which is a very slow heart rate, can also cause SCA.
    • Ventricular Fibrillation is when the heart's lower chambers suddenly start beating chaotically and don't pump blood.
    • Heart block occurs when the electrical signal is slowed or stopped as it moves through the heart.
  • Coronary artery disease (CAD) results from a condition called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a condition where a waxy substance (plaque) forms inside the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle.
  • Prior Heart attack can create scar tissue that can lead to Ventricular Fibrillation and cardiac arrest
  • Severe Physical stress can cause the heart’s electrical system to stop, esp. if the person already as heart problems because the release of the hormone adrenalin acts as a trigger for SCA.
  • Heart problems such as congenital heart disease or defects, heart valve problems, heart rhythm problems, and an enlarged heart, coronary artery anomaly, or Brugada Syndrome
  • Inherited disorders, including some types arrhythmias, run in families.
  • Medicines for heart disease, can sometimes increase the risk of arrhythmias
  • Illegal or illicit drug use (like cocaine).
  • Changes to the size or shape of the heart, which can be caused by high blood pressure or heart disease. Changes to the heart’s structure may cause problems with its electrical system & increase the risk of arrhythmias.

What are the signs and symptoms of SCA?

  • For most people, the first sign of SCA is fainting or a loss of consciousness, or absent breathing which happens when the heart stops beating.
  • Breathing may also stop at this time.
  • Some people may experience dizziness or lightheadedness just before they faint.

How is SCA diagnosed?

  • Because SCA happens quickly and without warning, it usually cannot be diagnosed when it is happening.
  • There are tests that doctors use to determine if patients are at risk of SCA:
    • ECG or EKG (Electrocardiography)
    • Echocardiography
    • Cardiac catheterization
    • Electrophysiology studies
    • Gated blood pool scan or MUGA - shows how well heart is pumping blood
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

What to do: Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac arrest is reversible in most victims if it's treated within a few minutes.

  • First, call 9-1-1 for emergency medical services.
  • Then get an automated external defibrillator (AED) if one is available and use it as soon as it arrives.
  • Begin CPR immediately and continue until professional emergency medical services arrive.
  • If two people are available to help, one should begin CPR immediately while the other calls 9-1-1 and finds an AED.

Statistics & Mortality

  • Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death – over 320,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur annually in the United States. By performing Hands-Only CPR to the beat of the classic disco song “Stayin’ Alive,” you can double or even triple a victim’s chance of survival. Learn the two easy steps to save a life at
  • Without medical attention, the person will die within a few minutes. People are less likely to die if they have early defibrillation. Defibrillation sends an electric shock to restore the heart rhythm to normal. You should give cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to a person having SCA until defibrillation can be done.
  • According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, between 250,000 and 450,000 Americans have SCA each year. Almost 95% of these people die within minutes.
  • Sudden cardiac arrest happens most often in adults in their mid 30s to mid 40s. It affects men twice as often as it affects women. It hardly ever affects children, unless they have an inherited problem that increases their risk.
  • People with heart disease have a greater chance of SCA, but it can happen in people who appear healthy and do not know they have any heart problems.
  • Based on death certificates, sudden cardiac death accounts for about 15% of all deaths in Western countries.
  • While the average Sudden Cardiac Arrest victim is 60-years-old, SCA affects people of all ages—even children and teens. More than 7,000 youth (7,037) under the age of 18 experience SCA each year in the U.S.
  • Sudden Cardiac Arrest outside hospitals occurs most often in a home or residence (68.5%), followed by public settings (21%) and nursing homes (10.5%).
  • Sudden Cardiac Arrest outside hospitals is witnessed by a layperson in 37% of cases and by an EMS provider in 12% of cases. For 51% of cases, the collapse is not witnessed.

Notable who died of Cardiac Arrest

  1. Ranker - Famous People Who Died of Cardiac Arrest (153 listed)
  2. Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK - Celebrity Deaths (7 listed)
  3. Wikipedia - Sudden cardiac death of athletes (96 listed)
  • Michael Jackson (1958-2009) - American singer, songwriter, record producer, dancer & actor (Cardiac arrest induced by acute propofol & benzodiazephine intoxication)
  • Brittany Murphy (1977-2009) - American film & stage actress, singer & voice artist
  • Mother Teresa (1910-1997) - Roman Catholic religious sister & missionary
  • Christopher Reeve (1952-2004) - American actor, film director, producer, screenwriter, author, & activist
  • George Burns (1896-1996) - American comedian, actor, author
  • Tony Curtis (1925-2010) - American actor
  • Heather O’Rourke (1975-1988) American child actress. Died @ age 12 of cardiac arrest & septic shock caused by a misdiagnosed intestinal stenosis
  • Orville Wright (1871-1948) - Aviator, inventor
  • Peter Lawford (1923-1984) - American actor
  • Sergei Eisenstein (1898-1948) - Soviet Russian Film director & film theorist; pioneer in the theory & practice of montage
  • Vonetta McGee (1945-2010) - American actress
  • Ron Vawter (1948-1994) - American actor
  • Dorothy McGuire (1916-2001) - American actress
  • Sampath Kumar (aka Vishnuvardhan) (1950-2009) - Indian film actor
  • Melvyn Edouard Hesselberg (aka Melvyn Douglas) (1901-1981) - American actor
  • A.K. Lohithadas (1955-2009) - Indian screenwriter, playwright, director & producer
  • Charles Farrell (1901-1990) - American actor
  • Kenneth E Hagin (1917-2003) - American Pentecostal preacher
  • Eric “Hank” Gathers (1967-1990) - American college basketball star
  • Jason Collier '(1977-2005) - American professional basketball player

Resources & Additional Reading: