There's no sure way to know your risk of sudden cardiac arrest, so reducing your risk is the best strategy. Steps to take include regular checkups, screening for heart disease and living a heart-healthy lifestyle with the following approaches:

  • Don't smoke, and use alcohol in moderation (no more than one to two drinks a day).
  • Eat a nutritious, balanced diet.
  • Stay physically active.

If you know you have heart disease or conditions that make you more vulnerable to an unhealthy heart, your doctor may recommend that you take appropriate steps to improve your health, such as taking medications for high cholesterol or carefully managing diabetes.

In some people with a known high risk of sudden cardiac arrest — such as those with a heart condition — doctors may recommend anti-arrhythmic drugs or an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) as primary prevention.

If you have a high risk of sudden cardiac arrest, you may also wish to consider purchasing an automated external defibrillator (AED) for home use. Before purchasing one, discuss the decision with your doctor. AEDs can be expensive and aren't always covered by health insurance.

If you live with someone who is vulnerable to sudden cardiac arrest, it's important that you be trained in CPR. The American Red Cross and other organizations offer courses in CPR and defibrillator use to the public. Being trained will help not only your loved one but also those in your community. The more people who know how to respond to a cardiac emergency, the more the survival rate for sudden cardiac arrest can be improved.

Nov. 15, 2012