Ways to prevent death due to sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) differ depending on whether:
If you've already had SCA, you're at high risk of having it again. Research shows that an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) reduces the chances of dying from a second SCA.
An ICD is surgically placed under the skin in your chest or abdomen. The device has wires with electrodes on the ends that connect to your heart's chambers. The ICD monitors your heartbeat.
If the ICD detects a dangerous heart rhythm, it gives an electric shock to restore the heart's normal rhythm. Your doctor may give you medicine to limit irregular heartbeats that can trigger the ICD.
An ICD isn't the same as a pacemaker. The devices are similar, but they have some differences. Pacemakers give off low-energy electrical pulses. They're often used to treat less dangerous heart rhythms, such as those that occur in the upper chambers of the heart. Most new ICDs work as both pacemakers and ICDs.
Your doctor may prescribe a type of medicine called a beta blocker to help lower your risk for SCA. Other treatments for CHD, such as angioplasty or coronary artery bypass grafting, also may lower your risk for SCA.
Your doctor also may recommend an ICD if you're at high risk for SCA.
CHD seems to be the cause of most SCAs in adults. CHD also is a major risk factor for angina (chest pain or discomfort) and heart attack, and it contributes to other heart problems.
Following a healthy lifestyle can help you lower your risk for CHD, SCA, and other heart problems.
A healthy diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Choose a variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains; half of your grains should come from whole-grain products.
Choose foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. Healthy choices include lean meats, poultry without skin, fish, beans, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products.
Choose and prepare foods with little sodium (salt). Too much salt can raise your risk for high blood pressure. Studies show that following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan can lower blood pressure.
Choose foods and beverages that are low in added sugar. If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.
Aim for a healthy weight by staying within your daily calorie needs. Balance the calories you take in with the calories you use for physical activity. Be as physically active as you can.
Some people should get medical advice before starting or increasing physical activity. For example, talk with your doctor if you have a chronic (ongoing) health problem, are on medicine, or have symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or dizziness. Your doctor can suggest types and amounts of physical activity that are safe for you.
For more information about following a healthy diet, go to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's (NHLBI's) Aim for a Healthy Weight Web site, "Your Guide to a Healthy Heart," and "Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure With DASH." All of these resources provide general information about healthy eating.
Other lifestyle changes also can help lower your risk for SCA. Examples include:
The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.