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October is Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

October is Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month and Dr. Campbell joined the WNCN Today team on Wednesday to discuss just what SCA is and why it's important to know.

More than 350,000 deaths are attributed to SCA every year in the United States and the survival rate is less than 1 percent unless CPR and defibrillation are utilized quickly by bystanders.

A new study by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showed that by increasing rates of bystander CPR, the survival rate can be tripled. That fact is just one of the arguments for making an immediate push in the U.S. to train everyone in how to properly perform CPR.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest claims one life every two minutes, taking more lives each year than breast cancer, lung cancer or AIDS. In fact, heart disease kills more people every year than all types of cancer combined.

One common misconception about SCA is that it's a heart attack -- it's not. It can be associated with a heart attack, but there is a difference. SCA occurs when the heart no longer beats properly, a deadly rhythm called ventricular fibrillation, that effectively stops all blood from pumping, whereas a heart attack is when an artery in the heart blocks up and deprives the heart muscle from blood flow and oxygen. 

The new JAMA study began 10 years ago in Denmark when officials noted the high rates of sudden death and also observed that the rate of bystander CPR was very low. They set out to study ways to improve bystander CPR rates and see what impact that might have on survival rates.

What they found was incredibly significant. Initial rates of CPR were 20 percent but improved to 44 percent over the study period. More importantly, survival rates for SCA improved from 7 percent to 22 percent over the 10 year study period. With the more than doubling of CPR rates, survival for SCA tripled, making a strong argument for universal CPR training.

One area that the study didn't look at was the use of Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs). It's known that in some areas, AED use has resulted in a nearly 70 percent improvement in survival. Dr. Campbell says that the use of AEDs by bystanders would improve survival of SCA even more.

For those interested in learning CPR, the American Red Cross offers training classes in nearly every city in the country. Locally, you contact Rex Hospital or other hospitals to see classes open to the public.

For more information and statistics about SCA, click here.

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