SHOCTOBER – Defibrillator Awareness Month

A study has shown exercising is unlikely to cause a cardiac arrest and older people should not give up physical activity over fears it may lead to fatal heart problems. Researchers in the US suggest that the danger has been over-exaggerated because exercise-related cardiac arrests mostly happen in public… and in reality, most cardiac arrests, are not caused by overdoing it.

“Our study findings reinforce the idea of the high-benefit, low-risk nature of exercise in middle age,” said Dr Sumeet Chugh, M.D. the study’s senior author and associate director for genomic cardiology at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, California. Sudden cardiac arrest is the abrupt loss of heart function and usually results from an electrical disturbance in the heart that stops blood flow to other vital organs. It is different to a heart attack which occurs when the blood supply to the heart is suddenly stopped.

The study looked at 1,247 cases of sudden cardiac arrest in people aged between 35 and 65. It found that just five per cent of the attacks were related to participating in vigorous activity, such as running, cycling or playing sports. And in two-thirds of the cases, patients had a previously documented cardiovascular disease or symptoms.

The researchers also found that those people who suffered a cardiac arrest during sport or exercise were nearly twice as likely to survive, largely because the attacks happened in public where help could be summoned quickly or CPR administered immediately. Administering CPR immediately after the event, before emergency services arrives, can increase the chance of survival. The report authors said that more should be done to promote basic lifesaving and CPR skills particularly among middle aged people.

A study in the British Medical Journal last year suggested that restricted availability of defibrillators, and poor understanding of how to use them, was adding to the number of deaths from sudden cardiac arrest. This research was published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

Cardiac Arrest Survival Foundation

Australian Resuscitation Council