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What Can We Learn From Christian Eriksen's Heart Attack?

"Heart Attack" is a term used to describe a number of different conditions that ultimately lead to the heart failing.

The most common form of heart attack is an MI (myocardial infarction).

This is the result of a number of different lifestyle and environmental factors creating atherosclerosis (a thickening of the artery wall) which can ultimately lead to clotting and other obstructions reducing the blood-flow and then starving the heart of oxygen.

This causes all or part of the heart muscle to die, which can stop the heart beating

Starved of oxygen the heart fails.

It is not yet known what caused Eriksen to collapse and his heart to apparently stop, but it is not likely to be this kind of heart attack.

Cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack triggered by underlying coronary disease.

Other factors can create a situation where the heart stops beating.

One is a condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy which can cause the heart muscle to thicken and make it harder to pump blood.

Other causes of a cardiac arrest (the heart failing to continue beating) are linked to electrical faults. These faults may cause the specifically timed "beat" of different valves losing their timing, which can ultimately lead to an abnormal rhythm.

This can reduce the flow of blood out of the heart to organs like the brain and leading people to collapse.

There are also genetic conditions which can affect heart beats, such as Brugada syndrome and long QT syndrome.

Many conditions can be intermittent, and potentially missed by the ECG heart traces and ultrasound scans; common health assessments for professional footballers and athletes competing in other sports.

Dr Richard Till is a consultant cardiac electrophysiologist at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospitals Trust, and he specialises in the electrical activity of the heart.

Dr Till recently told The Independent that these conditions can be intermittent and potentially missed by ECG heart traces and ultrasound scans that are common health assessments for professional footballers and other athletes.

This isn't the first time a professional footballer has suffered in a similar way.

In 2012, Bolton Wanderers star Fabrice Muamba suffered a heart attack whilst playing an FA Cup quarter final match against Tottenham Hotspur, ironically fielding a group of players that went on to be Eriksen's teammates when he joined Spurs less than two years later.

In May 219, ex Real Madrid goalkeeper, Iker Casillas, suffered a heart attack in training, for his then team, Porto.

Both men were at their physical peak with no signs of hidden danger.

So what can trigger a sudden cardiac arrest in young, fit, healthy sports men and women?

He told The Independent what happened to Christian Eriksen was rare.

“What is likely is that he has a congenital condition that has not been picked up until now.”

“The key" to assist with a cardiac arrest, he went on "is to keep oxygen and blood flowing to the brain through chest compressions and I understand Christian Eriksen received very prompt CPR on the pitch."

"He would have been connected to a defibrillator which would check his heart rhythm and shock the heart to return it to a normal rhythm if appropriate. Which is what I understand happened."

“It’s likely his youth and fitness helped his brain to survive until they started CPR.”

One thing is certain...Christian Eriksen, like other heart attack sufferors, has been through a terrible ordeal, and one which will shape his life to some degree afterwards.

Whilst we can't do very much to intercept some cardiac arrest events, such as this one, we can take note of the awful experience suffered by Eriksen, and think about ways that we can avoid a similar fate ourselves somewhere in our future.

We can look to implement lifestyle changes that will protect us and our families from a similar fate, where we might not be lucky enough to have experts on-hand to save us.

Eriksen will not be left totally without challenges.

He will be affected mentally by the experience, and may feel somewhat lost and confused about his future.

He may or may not be able to continue in his job, a role that he performs at the highest level and which fills him with pride, and makes him a national role model in Denmark.

His family will feel concerned for his wellbeing.

He will be going through a similar feeling of "mortality" that many in life experience in older age, when their lifestyle related heart attacks catch-up with them.

Like me, he will probably re-assess many areas of his life.

Eriksen is a young, fit, father of two....and I hope he goes on to make a full recovery, and is able to cope with the physical and mental challenges that lie ahead for him.

I really hope that he achieves a heightened sense of joy and wonder at life, and cherishes each moment.

For more information on how to adopt lifestyle changes to prevent the more common type of heart attack affecting you, or your family, then you can download a FREE copy of my book Use Your Head, Heal Your Heart at

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