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SCA facts

  • SCA is an “electrical problem” that occurs when the heart develops a fast, abnormal rhythm that prevents it from pumping blood to the brain and body
  • SCA is not a heart attack, which is caused by a blocked vessel leading to loss of blood supply to a portion of the heart muscle. However, some people may experience SCA during a heart attack and a previous heart attack is a predictor of future risk.
  • SCA strikes without warning.

SCA statistics

Sudden cardiac arrest is a major health problem. According to the American Heart Association, SCA kills approximately 335,000 people each year in the United States, or 1,000 lives every day. Additionally, SCA strikes more than 5,768 Iowans each year, or approximately 16 lives per day.*

  • SCA kills more Americans than lung cancer, breast cancer and HIV/AIDS combined.
  • Without emergency help, SCA leads to death within minutes. It is estimated that 95 percent of victims of cardiac arrest die before they reach a hospital or other source of emergency help.
  • Defibrillation is the only definitive treatment for SCA, and survival decreases 7-10 percent for every minute without it. Victims of cardiac arrest can be saved if CPR is provided and an automated external defibrillator (AED) is immediately available to deliver an electric shock to restore the heart to its normal rhythm, preferably within three to five minutes.
  • SCA victims range from young children to the elderly. The average response time to an emergency call is six to 12 minutes.
  • As many as 75 percent of people who die of SCA show signs of a previous heart attack, while eighty percent have signs of coronary artery disease.

1 American Heart Association / American Stroke Association, Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics, 2006 Update

MMWR Weekly February 15, 2002, State-Specific Mortality from Sudden Cardiac Arrest --- United States, 1999.

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