An AED, also known as an automated external defibrillator, is a device used to get a person's heartbeat back to normal. It's a portable device that's electronic and actually diagnoses the cardiac arrhythmias that can be life threatening. Once the device diagnoses that there is an issue, it sends an electric shock to stop the arrhythmia and basically restart the heart to get it back to its natural rhythm. 

When Is It Used

A defibrillator is used when the heart is tachycardic (beating too fast), bradycardic (is beating too slow) or beating irregular. These may lead to sudden cardiac arrest. Sudden cardiac arrest is often caused by ventricular fibrillation, which is when the heart's lower chambers, known as the ventricles, aren't beating correctly. They tend to beat and quiver irregularly and rapidly. During ventricular fibrillation, the impulses from the ventricles are disorganized and cause the heart to be unable to pump blood throughout the body. The person will die within minutes if the condition isn't treated. Another reason, which is also common, is ventricular tachycardia. This particular condition causes the ventricles to beat rapidly. The fast beating may last for a few seconds or in some cases much longer. 

Other reasons for SCA include coronary artery disease, which arises from atherosclerosis–a condition that happens when plaque forms in the interior of the arteries. Physical stress from exercise or other physical activity may lead to SCA because of the adrenalin that overstimulates the heart. Sometimes the SCA is caused by an inherited disorder, drug use, changes in the structure of the heart or certain medications for heart disease. 

Why Is It Important to Have One Around

Obviously, there are numerous causes for a person to go into sudden cardiac arrest that require an AED. American Heart Classes from the American Red Cross will teach you that over 350,000 people in the U.S. will suffer from cardiac arrest in a year. It's actually one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.;  however, that's not the only reason it's important to have one around. First and foremost, you never quite know when a person is going to go into SCA and need one. In fact, according to the Texas Heart Institute, a majority of cardiac arrest cases aren't in older Americans who have health problems. They occur most commonly in adults who are between the ages of 35 and 45. It happens to men more than women, twice as often to be exact. You rarely see kids experiencing it unless they have an inherited condition that increases their risk.

A person doesn't have to have cardiovascular disease or any other underlying health conditions for this to occur. In some cases, the person will be completely healthy with no signs of heart problems. Another reason to have an AED on hand is because it's the only treatment that's effective at treating SCA. Death from cardiac arrest can happen in minutes, so having one nearby can mean the difference between life and death. Statistics from the American Red Cross denote that every minute a person doesn't have an AED the survival rate is lessened by about 10 percent. 


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