“Every 30 seconds someone dies or is adversely impacted by a heart condition.2

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is when the heart stops beating abruptly and without warning.1 When this happens the heart is no longer able to pump blood to the brain and throughout the body. The person suddenly passes out, loses consciousness and appears lifeless.2 Unless treated immediately with defibrillation or with CPR followed by defibrillation, SCA renders a person clinically dead within minutes. For every minute that elapses after SCA, the chances of survival diminish 10%.3 The result is death for 95% of the victims.

SCA and vascular diseases claim nearly 350,000 lives each year.4

That’s more lives than those lost to all types of cancer combined. This translates to a heart-related death in America every two minutes. Breaking it down further, every 30 seconds someone dies or is adversely impacted by a heart condition.The adverse impact of heart-related issues is even more significant, as there are vast numbers of people who avert death due to early detection of their heart condition and correction by medical attention.4

SCA is the leading cause of death in student athletes.

Every year 10,000 young people die from SCA.5 Many appear healthy and have no known family history of heart-related illness. Even though medical tests can provide early detection of the presence of heart abnormalities, insurance companies generally do not cover their costs without the presence of symptoms or a family history of heart problems. “The leading cause of death among young athletes is not head injury or trauma during sports, but SCA.” In fact, on average, every three days in the U.S., a young athlete dies during training or play from SCA. As many as 1 in 250 to 1 in 300 young athletes have a heart disorder that may increase their risk of SCA, says Dr. Jonathan Drezner, a University of Washington Medicine family physician who specializes in sports medicine.3 Approximately 5,800 children experience out-of-hospital SCA each year6 and nearly 2,000 youth in the United States die of SCA annually.7

SCA can also affect students who are not athletes.

Screening of youth is essential for the prevention of SCA. While recommendations for screening of athletes have been advanced by the American Heart Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, exclusively conducting pre-participation evaluations for athletes omits more than 25 million school children who do not participate in sports.7

Typically, SCA symptoms are silent until it is too late.

As a result, screening is critical to prevention. An echocardiogram can detect the potential for SCA with 99% accuracy and many of the problems detected can be treated or corrected. For this reason it is essential that screening be done at an early age.3

Warning signs and symptoms of SCA8:
  • Fainting or seizure during or after physical activity
  • Fainting or seizure resulting from emotional excitement, distress or startle
  • Chest pain or discomfort/ racing heartbeat
  • Unexplained fainting or seizures
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Unusual shortness of breath
  • Unusual fatigue/tiredness
  • Dizziness/lightheadedness during or after physical activity
  • Family history of unexpected sudden death during physical activity or during a seizure, or any other unexplained sudden death of an otherwise healthy family member under age 50

Call 911 immediately if any of these signs and/or symptoms appears life threatening. Otherwise, consult a physician promptly if you or someone you know has one or more of these signs and/or symptoms.

1 Boston Scientific
Heart Rhythm Society
3 UW Medicine health
4 Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation
5 American Heart Association
6 Griesenbeck 2011
7 American Academy of Pediatrics 2012
8 Parent Heart Watch