The tragic death of actor James Gandolfini at the age of only 51 following cardiac arrest serves as a grim reminder that sudden cardiac arrest does not discriminate by age. While reporting his death, the media has seemed to stir up a bit of confusion regarding whether Mr. Gandolfini suffered a heart attack or cardiac arrest. The investigation into cause of death is ongoing, but the head physician of the emergency room Gandolfini was admitted to has confirmed he was in a state of cardiac arrest. It is possible that this was a result of a previous heart attack, but it is important to understand the difference between these two conditions.
Heart attacks occur when there is a blockage of vessels in the heart limiting blood flow; however, the heart generally keeps beating. Cardiac arrest is caused by ventricular fibrillation, which is caused by a lack of synchronicity of the heart’s chambers resulting in a sudden stoppage of blood flow and loss of consciousness. As mentioned above, cardiac arrest may occur as a result of a heart attack or coronary heart disease, but it can also be induced by arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms), electrocution, drowning, choking, or trauma.
Whatever the cause of James Gandolfini’s cardiac arrest is determined to be, we wish his family and friends our deepest sympathies. We, of course, encourage all our readers to regularly visit their doctors to screen for potential heart problems as well as consider how you can prepare your home or business in the case of cardiac arrest through AED training and the installation of an AED.