Cardiac Arrest

A Cardiac Arrest, also known as a Myocardio Infarction, Cardiopulmonary Arrest or Circulatory Arrest happens when your heart stops pumping blood around your body.

It is a medical emergency. If you observe someone having a Heart Attack, call 000 for urgent medical attention and start CPR immediately.

Get the facts on Cardiac Arrest

What is Cardiac Arrest?

Not to be confused with a Heart Attack, where the blood supply to the heart muscle is slowed by a blockage, a Cardiac Arrest means your heart stops beating. Your breathing stops, you lose consciousness and unless CPR and defibrillation starts immediately, survival rates drop by 7 to 10% with every minute.

When the heart is no longer beating, blood circulation stops and no longer delivers oxygen throughout the body. In a short time, the lack of oxygen to the brain causes loss of consciousness, which then results in difficult breathing or no breathing at all. Brain damage will occur if the Cardiac Arrest goes untreated for more than five minutes. For the best chance of survival and for neurological recovery, immediate and decisive treatment is needed. If Cardiac Arrest is left untreated, sudden cardiac death is inevitable.

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What causes Cardiac Arrest?

Cardiac Arrest is most commonly caused by problems with the heart's electrical system - the sinoatrial and ventricular nodes.

In a healthy heart the electrical impulses are regular and controlled, but sometimes Coronary Heart Disease, a previous Heart Attack, High Blood Pressure, abnormal heart structures, congenital heart disease, or even excessive alcohol consumption can cause irregular rhythms in the heartbeat, known as Arrhythmias.

In this case the electrical signals can cause the heart chambers to beat either too quickly (tachycardia), in a way that's chaotic (fibrillation), or sometimes too slowly (bradycardia).

What are the symptoms of Cardiac Arrest?

Cardiac Arrest
  • The heart stops beating
  • Lose of consciousness
  • Normal breathing stops
  • Absense of pulse
  • Absense of blood pressure

Arrythmias can occur in the atria (the small heart chambers) or the ventricles, the heart's main pumping chambers. When these kinds of Arrhythmia occur in the ventricles (ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation) they tend to pose more of a Risk for Cardiac Arrest.

However, Cardiac Arrest is not always the result of a heart condition or Stroke. It can be caused by losing a large amount of blood or other body fluid, drowning, suffocation and a sudden shock to the body, such as extreme heat or cold, a drug overdose or electrocution.

Dehydration plays an important part in the hearts function and can cause electrolyte imbalances that can trigger Cardiac Arrest. Dehydration also means there's less fluid in your arteries, and your heart has to work harder to maintain blood pressure and has been linked to sudden Cardiac Arrest.

How is a Cardiac Arrest treated?

It's a medical emergency, call 000 straight away.

When the heart stops pumping blood to your vital organs – including the heart itself and the brain – they start to die within four to six minutes.

CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) must start within three to four minutes. With such a short window of time, knowing how to perform CPR can save a life. By keeping oxygenated blood flowing, those vital first minutes, you can keep someone alive, with minimal organ damage, until medical help arrives.

Ambulance staff will continue resuscitation and administer defibrillation, an electric shock to the heart, which can ‘kick start' the normal heartbeat.


Can I prevent a Cardiac Arrest?

Not all risks for Cardiac Arrest are controllable, but you can tackle the underlying causes of Arrhythmia, which are closely associated with Cardiac Arrest.

The best way to prevent cardiovascular episodes and disease is to know the Risk factors and manage them. While you can't do anything about your gender, age or family history, you can reduce your Risk significantly by knowing the controllable Risk factors and managing them with life style changes, regular monitoring and supplements.

The underlying causes of Cardiac Arrest can develop over many years, but it's never too early to make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk.

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Don't Smoke

If you smoke, there has never been a better time to quit. Nicotine replacement patches or prescription medications are effective in reducing the cravings.

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Check Your Cholesterol Levels Regularly

Do you know your cholesterol levels? Most people don't. Information is key, so knowing where you stand is the first step in keeping track and maintaining your heart health. You can order a Blood Pathology Request through Results are mailed directly to you and you can track your results using the My Heart Health section of

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Take Supplements Daily

Supplements are a great way to make sure you're getting your daily requirement of heart healthy nutrients. Supplements such as Omega 3 fish oil, Vitamins C and E and Coenzyme Q10 can be very beneficial to your heart health.

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Keep Your Blood Sugar In Range

If you have diabetes, follow your doctor’s direction and keep your blood glucose within a healthy range. Even if you don't have diabetes, stick to a low GI (Glycaemic Index) diet. You won’t be hungry and your blood sugar levels will be stable.

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Check Your Blood Pressure Regularly

Order a blood pressure monitor and keep track of your blood pressure weekly. You can record your results in the My Heart Health section of Aim to keep your blood pressure out of the danger zone - below 140/90mmHg. If your blood pressure is consistently high see your doctor.

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Be Active

Get a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day, or at least 2 hours in total per week. Even better, if you can get 4 hours of sweaty activity per week, you'll help lower your Risk of cancer too.

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Watch Your Waistline

Get your waist measurement to your 'low risk' zone. Men should keep it below 95cm and women should be below 80cm. Aim for a Body Mass Index of less than 25. You can track your progress in the My Heart Health section of

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Seek Happiness

Happiness is good for the heart. Just as negative emotions such as depression, anger, and hostility are risk factors for heart attack and stroke, studies show that happiness seems to protect the heart.