Why do cardiac arrests happen in the bathroom? You may have heard of people with otherwise healthy dispositions ending up in the emergency room after collapsing in the bathroom. Is it coincidental, or is there something else involved?
In this article, we’ll talk about the basics of why cardiac arrests happen and why you have an increased risk of cardiac arrest on the toilet.
The Difference Between Cardiac Arrest And A Heart Attack
Cardiac arrest can happen anywhere. However, while people may use the two terms synonymously, they don’t refer to the same thing. So, how are they different?
Consider that since the heart muscle never takes a break, continuously pumping blood throughout your body, it needs a constant source of oxygen and nourishment. A heart attack is when one of the arteries that supply oxygenated blood to the heart muscle becomes blocked. This blockage must be removed swiftly. Otherwise, the deprived heart muscle begins to die, causing permanent damage.
By contrast, cardiac arrest involves an electrical malfunction in the heart. The heart pumps blood due to cardiac rhythms thanks to its natural pacemaker triggering them in precise synchrony. But when an electrical malfunction occurs, the heart goes into arrhythmia and doesn’t pump properly anymore. Within a few seconds, the person loses consciousness and can die in minutes without treatment.
Note that a heart attack doesn’t mean the heart stops beating, while cardiac arrest means precisely that. However, a heart attack can cause cardiac arrest.
So, Why Do Cardiac Arrests Happen In The Bathroom?
There are several reasons for this. One is that when you’re in the middle of a bowel movement, you may be exerting yourself more than usual, particularly if you experience constipation. This strain can sometimes trigger cardiac arrest, especially in people with heart conditions.
Bowel movements can also put pressure on the vagus nerve, which can slow your heart rate due to a phenomenon known as the vasovagal response.
Another reason is that some people keep their medication in their bathroom medicine cabinet; accidental overdoses of particular medication can cause cardiac arrest.
Strangely, taking very hot or very cold showers can also trigger cardiac arrest. While the effect isn’t very clearly understood, it can be due to your blood vessels adjusting to skin temperature changes.
How To Prevent Bathroom Cardiac Arrest
The most critical thing about heart problems is that they are very time-sensitive. If the person gets treatment within minutes, cardiac arrest is reversible. Being in the bathroom can be a problem because you’re alone if and when you experience cardiac arrest, delaying access to treatment.
The solution? If you’re concerned about cardiac arrest, establish a safety system with a family member. They can check up on you to ensure you’re not in the bathroom beyond a specific time. Coordination and communication are vital to ensuring your safety.
At the Northwest Cardiovascular Clinic in Houston, TX, we listen to all of our patients and keep you confident and comfortable through our high-quality care practices. We’re equipped to perform a comprehensive suite of tests to diagnose any potential heart problems. These include electrocardiography, heart rhythm monitoring, and blood tests. If you have any questions or concerns, you can reach us at (281) 807-5253.