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Most of the time, it happens to someone we don’t know. Some random person on the news from a town we’ve never heard of whose life was cut too short. We hear or read about it, and then we move on, thinking it will never happen to us. The most extraordinary set of circumstances must all coincide for an event of such a sad nature to happen to us. But this time, “one of us” is who this struck. James Gandolfini, beloved actor and HBO mob boss, died from what was suspected to be a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) at the age of 51.

According to news reports, nothing could have been done to save him. CPR was performed by paramedics once they arrived on the scene, and then upon arrival at the hospital, extra resuscitative efforts were performed, most likely including an automatic external defibrillator. But alas, the cardiac arrest was too profound. While nothing could have been done at the time of the occurrence, much could have been done long ago.

As reference to the news reports we hear above, sudden cardiac arrest often occurs in athletes. Someone whose heart defects when undetected or through mere tragic happenstance, his heart just had too much and decided to stop working. But it does not always happen that way. Gandolfini was not performing some sort of strenuous exercise; he was returning to his hotel after a long day. And that is the scary part; it’s why the word “sudden” is in the name. At this time, it appears his only fault was that he loved all the wrong kinds of food a little too much.

That’s where moderation comes in. Healthy eating does not mean avoiding pizza or red meat the rest of your life. Healthy eating means a good balance; steak is good, but so is a salad or fresh fruit. Poor nutrition and lifestyle habits can create blocked arteries causing a heart attack. While heart attacks don’t always lead to cardiac arrest, they are a primary reason when sudden cardiac arrests occur, according to the American Heart Association.

So the basic thing to learn here is: be self aware. Eat healthy, have regular physicals and heart check-ups, and be prepared. Gandolfini was with his family when he had his cardiac arrest, and that is what is most important. It will most likely happen to someone you know, and the best thing you can do is be prepared. Know how to administer CPR, and if an AED is available, know how to operate it. Preparedness is what gives SCA victims their greatest chance of survival.

In Good Heart Health,

Eric Schroeder

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