Sudden Cardiac Arrest, A Public Health Crisis, Affects Nearly 1,000 People Each Day in the U.S.; Survival Rates Increase Dramatically When Bystanders Take Action

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The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation highlights information from a new report indicating that 326,200 people experience sudden cardiac arrest outside hospitals annually in the U.S., including thousands of children. On average, only one in 10 victims survives; when bystanders witness the emergency, however, one in three victims survives.

Calling 911, starting CPR, and using the nearest defibrillator can mean the difference between life and death for victims of sudden cardiac arrest.

According to a new report, “Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics — 2015 Update: A Report from the American Heart Association,” about 326,200 people, including more than 6,000 children, experience sudden unexpected cardiac arrest outside hospitals each year in the U.S. For many victims, there were no prior symptoms of a cardiac condition.

Only one in 10 victims survives, but when bystanders witness the emergency and the victim can be treated effectively with a defibrillator, one in three victims survives—and most survivors have good neurological outcomes.

“The findings from the American Heart Association report suggest encouragement and caution,” said Bobby V. Khan, MD, PhD, Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation board chairman, director of the Atlanta Vascular Research Foundation and Professor of Internal Medicine, University of Central Florida.

“While cardiovascular disease continues to carry a high burden in the United States—one in three deaths is directly attributed to CVD—there has been a significant reduction in events over the last 50 years, a trend that has continued during the past decade. Early recognition and risk factor reduction have contributed to this trend,” he said.

At the same time, he said, “The AHA report indicates that earlier intervention in cases of sudden cardiac arrest increases the chances of survival and the likelihood of a better quality of life. We must continue to emphasize the importance of doing whatever is possible to prevent sudden cardiac arrest—and we must continue to educate the public about what to do if they witness a sudden cardiac emergency.”

The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation urges the public to learn CPR and how to use an automated external defibrillator to treat victims of sudden cardiac arrest, noting that AEDs are intended for use by laypersons and the lifesaving devices provide straightforward, real-time instructions for use.

“Calling 911, starting CPR, and using the nearest defibrillator can mean the difference between life and death for victims of sudden cardiac arrest” said Khan. “If overall survival rates increased to even 20 percent, 30,000 additional lives could be saved each year.”

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About the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation

The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation is a national community benefit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to raising awareness about sudden cardiac arrest and saving lives. Programs include educational campaigns for secondary schools and colleges and the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Network, an online community that provides peer support and opportunities for survivors and family members to participate in awareness, advocacy, and research initiatives.

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Carissa Caramanis O'Brien
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