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Cardiac Arrest and the Death of Michael Jackson…

July 2, 2009 by  
Filed under Health, News, Weekly Columns

( Michael Jackson, the American pop legend, died of a cardiac arrest in a Los Angeles hospital just weeks before he hoped to resurrect his four-decade career with a series of sold-out shows in London.

The King of Pop was working for the past few weeks with a team of top choreographers to perfect a new dance move to rival the moonwalk. Four mornings a week, an SUV with darkened windows drove Michael Jackson through the gates outside a nondescript building near the Burbank airport. He spent the next six hours on a soundstage.

Jackson planned to perform between 18 and 22 songs, joined by smoke, fire, and acrobats in the concerts. Ten dancers were working with Jackson, scampering across as many as 22 different sets, in what was to be the biggest, most technologically advanced arena show – and the most expensive – ever mounted!

Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk), who has known Jackson for 15 years, said Jackson was “very energetic” during workouts and “was in fantastic shape”. Ferrigno, 57, said he last trained with Jackson about three weeks and would go to the singer’s home three or four times a week.

The two used tools like exercise balls and did a lot of core training to get Jackson in shape. “He didn’t look like he was in pain because he was on the treadmill. He did the stretching exercises.” In addition to training, it seems that Jackson kept a strict diet.

A four-hour physical with an independent physician this spring found no medical problems.

But now, Michael Jackson is dead? How Did Michael Jackson Die?

Well, after suffering a cardiac arrest, a little more than 24 hours after his last rehearsal, the King of Pop went under a deep coma and later on declared dead by the staff hospital.

For many of us, until the death of Michael Jackson, sudden death from cardiac arrest is a major health problem that’s received much less publicity than heart attack.

The most common underlying reason for patients to die suddenly from cardiac arrest is coronary heart disease. Most cardiac arrests that lead to sudden death occur when the electrical impulses in the diseased heart become rapid (ventricular tachycardia) or chaotic (ventricular fibrillation) or both. This irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia) causes the heart to suddenly stop beating.

The heart has an internal electrical system that controls the rhythm of the heartbeat. Problems can cause abnormal heart rhythms, called arrhythmias. There are many types of arrhythmia. During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow, or it can stop beating. Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the heart develops an arrhythmia that causes it to stop beating. This is different than a heart attack, where the heart usually continues to beat but blood flow to the heart is blocked.

There are many possible causes of cardiac arrest. They include coronary heart disease, heart attack, electrocution, drowning, or choking. There may not be a known cause to the cardiac arrest.

What is clear is that there are ways to lower one’s risk of sudden cardiac death such as eating healthy, exercising, not smoking and taking aspirins. The trouble, though, is that patients often don’t think they’re at serious risk until they are actually experiencing an attack. In about a third of all sudden deaths due to coronary disease, death is the first sign that anything major is wrong.

A sudden cardiac arrest is, of course, unexpected, but the process that causes it may begin many years before. In middle-aged men, it’s virtually always caused by degeneration in the wall of a coronary artery.

The sad fact is that the majority of acute heart attacks are associated with “non-significant” plaques. These plaques may suddenly rupture, which quickly leads to the formation of a blood clot. The blood clot acutely occludes the coronary artery, causing a heart attack.

Brain death and permanent death start to occur in just 4 to 6 minutes after someone experiences cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest can be reversed if it’s treated within a few minutes with an electric shock to the heart to restore a normal heartbeat. This process is called defibrillation. A victim’s chances of survival are reduced by 7 to 10 percent with every minute that passes without CPR and defibrillation. Few attempts at resuscitation succeed after 10 minutes.

According to NCHS Data Warehouse, 325,000 coronary heart disease deaths occur out-of-hospital or in hospital emergency departments annually.

The term “massive heart attack” is often wrongly used in the media to describe sudden death. The term “heart attack” refers to death of heart muscle tissue due to the loss of blood supply, not necessarily resulting in a cardiac arrest or the death of the heart attack victim. A heart attack may cause cardiac arrest and sudden cardiac death, but the terms aren’t the same.

Sudden death in people under age 35, often due to hidden heart defects or overlooked heart abnormalities, is rare. These sudden deaths often occur during physical activity, such as a sporting event.

Millions of elementary, high-school and college athletes compete every year without incident. Still, when sudden cardiac arrest or sudden cardiac death in a young person is due to a heart abnormality, it’s often triggered by physical activity. Fortunately, if you’re at risk of sudden death, there are screening tests to see if you have a heart defect and precautions you can take to protect your heart.

Cardiac arrest is obviously a serious medical emergency. The mortality (death rate) from cardiac arrest can be decreased by providing immediate CPR and prompt defibrillation. Many public places are now equipped with automated external defibrillators (AEDs) that allow lay persons to provide emergency defibrillation in case of cardiac arrest.

Remember, I’m not a doctor. I just sound like one.

Take good care of yourself and live the best life possible!

This column is intended for informational purposes only. If you have a medical concern, please see your health provider.

Written By Glenn Ellis

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