Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) Awareness

Think Sudden Cardiac Arrest is a Heart Attack? That's Like Comparing Apples and Oranges.

About Sudden Cardiac Arrest

More than 350,000 deaths occur each year as a result of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). In fact, SCA claims one life every two minutes, taking more lives each year than breast cancer, lung cancer, or AIDS. To decrease the death toll from SCA, it is important to understand what SCA is, what warning signs are, and how to respond and prevent SCA from occurring.

More than 65 percent of Americans not only underestimate the seriousness of SCA, but also believe SCA is a type of heart attack. But that is like comparing apples and oranges.

This public service announcement explains the dangers of SCA and features Emmy-award winning journalist Shaun Robinson.


Every year in the U.S., more than 350,000 hearts suddenly and unexpectedly…stop. But they didn’t have to. Early intervention could have saved their lives. I’m Shaun Robinson - given my family’s history with heart disease, I’m here to shed light on Sudden Cardiac Arrest – a condition we need to stop. S-C-A is deadly, and can happen to anyone, but chances are greater in African Americans. Most high-risk patients do not receive recommended treatments. Over 60-percent of African-Americans think they don’t need to go to the doctor after experiencing heart disease symptoms. It’s time to arrest your risk. Talk to your doctor. Stop S-C-A before it stops you.

October is Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month

SCA Awareness Month represents a critical initiative by the Heart Rhythm Society to raise awareness for SCA and help the public become more familiar with what it is, how it affects people, and what can be done to help save lives. 

The Society's award-winning "Apples and Oranges" campaign uses a simple analogy to educate people about the difference between a heart attack and SCA. The campaign targets heart attack survivors, who are at the highest risk for SCA, and stresses the importance of maintaining a healthy heart lifestyle and learning critical risk markers, especially their Ejection Fraction (EF).

Watch our awareness ads that ran in New York’s Times Square

Responding to SCA — Time is Everything

Automatic External Defibrillator (AED)

Time-to-treatment is critical when considering the chance of survival for an SCA victim. Ninety-five percent of those who experience SCA die because they do not receive life-saving defibrillation within four to six minutes, before brain and permanent death start to occur. But many people do not know how to respond when someone experiences SCA.

The Heart Rhythm Society advises the following actions in response to a potential SCA emergency:

  1. Know the signs of SCA in order to react quickly. SCA strikes immediately and without warning. Victims will fall to the ground/collapse, become unresponsive, and will not breathe normally, if at all
  2. Call 911 as soon as possible
  3. Start CPR as quickly as possible. Bystanders should provide high-quality chest compressions by pushing hard and fast (approximately 100 beats per minute) in the middle of the victim’s chest, with minimal interruptions. (Note: Hands-only CPR is proven to be just as effective)
  4. Use an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) if one is available on site

AEDs are increasingly available at public locations, such as airports, gyms, and office buildings. Despite common concerns that these devices can hurt the victim, shock a victim when he or she does not need a shock, or shocking or hurting oneself while treating the victim, these devices will only deliver a shock when an irregular heart rhythm is detected.

SCA Resources

Resources for Providers

Resources for Patients

The SCA Risk Assessment is an interactive tool designed to help individuals estimate their risk of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), a common cardiac arrhythmia that can occur abruptly and without warning. In fact, two-thirds of SCA deaths occur without any prior indications of heart disease. SCA can happen to people of all ages and health conditions.

Learn your risk by using this online tool! It’s fast and easy — simply answer a few questions regarding your health and get your results. After you have finished using the SCA Risk Assessment, please consult with your physician regarding your results.

The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Initiative is supported in part by educational grants from Boston Scientific and Zoll.

2013-14 SCA Awareness Supporters