Medical Conditions

Updated: 8/1/2019

Sometimes illness or disease gradually sneaks up on you. A twinge here, an ache there. What begins as an irritation can lead to the realization that something is wrong and medical attention is needed. Usually, there is plenty of time to seek medical attention, obtain a diagnosis, and begin treatment. However, there are other medical conditions that can strike suddenly and without warning. Some of these conditions are so severe that a lack of prompt medical attention can quickly result in death—sometimes within only hours.

12. Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Heart Disease

This heart condition is often confused with a heart attack, but the two conditions cause the heart to stop beating by different mechanisms. In a heart attack, a blockage in blood vessels prevents blood from reaching the heart. Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), on the other hand, is caused by an electrical problem, or arrhythmia, within the heart. SCA must be treated within minutes in order to prevent death. The steps in treating someone with SCA are to first dial 9-1-1 to summon emergency medical services. Next, use a device called an automated external defibrillator or hands-only CPR to aid the heart until paramedics arrive.

11. Stroke

Stroke Woman

According to the American Stroke Association, stroke is the number five cause of death in the United States. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is blocked in one of two ways. It may be caused by a clot in a blood vessel or when a blood vessel bursts. Depriving the brain of oxygen can allow brain cells to die and can lead to death if not treated quickly. To prevent death, know the FAST warning signs of stroke. If you suspect someone is having a stroke, check the person’s face for drooping. Next, ask the person to raise both arms above the head. Take note if one of the arms starts to drift back down. Then, evaluate the person’s speech, listening for slurred or unintelligible words. If you see any of these signs of stroke, know that it is time to dial 9-1-1 for emergency medical treatment.


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