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It may be thrilling when love makes your heart skip a beat, but under any other circumstance that may not be a good thing.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA), which differs from a heart attack, occurs when the heart stops beating abruptly and without warning. It is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., claiming more than 350,000 lives a year.
Dr. Kevin L. Thomas of the Duke University Medical Center and the Association of Black Cardiologists wants African Americans, who are disproportionately affected by SCA, to talk to their doctors about prevention, early intervention and appropriate treatment.
According to research, more than 90 percent of Americans underestimate the percentage of people who die of sudden cardiac arrest. More than 60 percent of black Americans do not go to the doctor, even after they experience symptoms suggestive of heart problems and 90 percent of those surveyed say their doctors have never discussed SCA with them.
Thomas, who is spokesman for the Heart Rhythm Society’s “Arrest the Risk” campaign, said to prevent and recognize potential heart problems, patients should:
• Live a healthy lifestyle—exercise, eat healthy, avoid smoking.
• Know your family heart history, tell your doctor and ask for a referral to a specialist, such as an electrophysiologist (EP).
• Treat and monitor all health conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
• Control or stop abnormal heart rhythms through medication, ICDs or surgical procedures.
In February, the Heart Rhythm Society (HRS) and the Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC) launched the Arrest the Risk program, working with health care providers and black leaders in Atlanta; Chicago; Dallas; Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; Jackson, Miss.; Nashville, Tenn.; Detroit; New Orleans; and Oakland, Calif., cities with high at-risk populations for SCA.
The HRS also has developed an SCA risk assessment tool, available at ArrestTheRisk.org, which allows patients to ask self-reflective questions about personal and family health issues, as well as start a dialogue with a physician about SCA risks.
“Lack of knowledge and access to appropriate treatment are two of the biggest factors leading to the deadly impact of SCA among African Americans. When it comes to SCA, early intervention can literally save lives,” Thomas said in a statement announcing the campaign.
“It’s critical to talk to your doctor about SCA risk factors including your family’s heart health history.