Women’s Risk Factors for Sudden Cardiac Arrest and How to Manage Them

Pregnancy, Mental Health, and Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Women

Each year, approximately 350,000 individuals experience sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting, with almost 90 percent of cases resulting in death. While men and women may exhibit different symptoms of heart disease, the risks associated with sudden cardiac arrest also vary based on gender.

Nancy Dagefoerde, an advanced practice nurse at the OSF HealthCare Cardiovascular Institute, explains that sudden cardiac arrest can occur in any adult, especially those aged 30 and above. Factors such as family history, risk factors, and congenital heart defects can contribute to the likelihood of experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. This condition arises from an irregular heartbeat known as an arrhythmia, which causes the heart to stop beating or lose electrical activity completely, resulting in the affected person displaying no breathing or pulse.

Dagefoerde emphasizes the distinction between sudden cardiac arrest and a heart attack, clarifying that the latter occurs when there is a blockage in the coronary artery surrounding the heart. Despite lingering stigma around mental health, more individuals are seeking treatment when needed. For pregnant women contemplating the safety of medications like Zoloft or Prozac, Sarah Shoemaker, a certified nurse midwife at OSF HealthCare, advises discussing these concerns with a healthcare provider early on, preferably before conception.

Shoemaker explains that some women spend years finding the right medication combination to maintain stability and health. In such cases, providers aim to minimize disruptions to established medication regimens

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