Heart Attack vs. Cardiac Arrest: What’s the Difference?
Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest

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When it comes to cardiac arrest versus a heart attack, it can be easy to get confused. You may be wondering, Is cardiac arrest the same as a heart attack?

Heart attack and cardiac arrest are two life-threatening medical conditions that can affect your heart. While they may sound similar, there are important differences in how they occur

A heart attack is caused by a blockage in one or more of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. When blood flow to the heart is blocked, the heart muscle can become damaged or die.

On the other hand, cardiac arrest is an electrical problem that causes the heart to suddenly stop beating. This can happen when the heart’s electrical signals become irregular, causing the heart to quiver instead of beating normally.

It’s important to act quickly in either case and seek emergency medical attention. While most people survive a heart attack, few survive cardiac arrest.

To learn more about the development of heart attacks and cardiac arrest and what to do in each emergency, consult our expert cardiologist. Remember to call your country’s emergency facilities, such as 112 or 911, as soon as possible.

What’s the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest?

Myocardial infarction commonly referred to as “a heart attack,” can be deadly. In most cases, plaque clogs the arteries that supply blood to your heart. Without oxygen and nutrients, your heart’s muscle tissue can start to die. The goal is to return blood flow to your heart as quickly as possible — if not, a heart attack can lead to permanent damage and even death.

Key factors that can increase your risk of having a heart attack are:

             •           Age and sex.

             •           Family history of heart disease.

             •           Lifestyle choices, like lack of physical activity, smoking, and diet.

             •           Certain health conditions, like diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.

During cardiac arrest, the heart may beat in a chaotic and irregular manner, leading to a loss of circulation and consciousness. Without immediate intervention, the brain can quickly begin to suffer from a lack of oxygen and blood flow, which can lead to irreversible damage or death. Unfortunately, survival rates for sudden cardiac arrest are low, with less than 10% of individuals surviving the event.

An abnormal heart rhythm can be caused by the following:

             •           Heart attack.

             •           Heart failure.

             •           Drugs used for certain medical conditions.

             •           Illegal drug use.

             •           Inherited heart disorders.

Heart attack symptoms

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of a heart attack is essential for prompt treatment and better outcomes. While chest pain is a common symptom of a heart attack, it’s not always the case. In fact, some people, especially women, individuals with diabetes, and older adults, may experience atypical symptoms like abdominal or back pain, or even have no symptoms at all.

It’s important to be aware of the signs of a heart attack and seek medical attention immediately if you suspect you or someone else may be experiencing one. Delaying treatment can increase the risk of complications and even death. By being proactive about heart health and understanding the various symptoms of a heart attack, you can better protect yourself and your loved ones from the devastating effects of cardiac arrest.

Symptoms can include:

             •           Chest pain, also known as angina.

             •           Shortness of breath.

             •           Trouble breathing.

             •           Fatigue.

             •           Insomnia.

             •           Nausea or indigestion.

             •           Heart palpitations.

             •           Anxiety.

             •           Sweating.

             •           Dizziness or lightheadedness.

“Patients in these groups are less likely to present with chest pain and more likely to have fatigue and insomnia, as well as shortness of breath,” says our expert. “Nausea, vomiting, and pain in your back and shoulders may also occur — don’t miss these red flags.”

Cardiac arrest symptoms

Cardiac arrest symptoms can include:

             •           Fainting.

             •           Chest pain.

             •           Shortness of breath.

             •           Nausea and vomiting.

             •           Heart palpitations.

             •           Dizziness or lightheadedness.

“Cardiac arrest symptoms typically start without warning,” states our expertise. “You may or may not experience chest pain before you faint and become unconscious.”

What should you do for each?

When it comes to a heart attack or cardiac arrest, time is of the essence. If you or someone else is experiencing symptoms, it’s crucial to act fast and call emergency services immediately. Avoid attempting to drive to the hospital and instead let the trained first responders assess the situation and provide treatment en route to the hospital.

If a heart attack is suspected, taking any prescribed chest pain medication is essential. If no medication is prescribed, chewing aspirin slowly can help prevent blood clots from forming and reduce damage. It’s vital to act quickly, as brain damage from cardiac arrest can begin as early as five minutes after losing consciousness, and cardiac arrest can be fatal if CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is not initiated within eight minutes.

In the event of cardiac arrest, starting CPR immediately and requesting someone to locate an automated external defibrillator (AED) can be life-saving. By knowing what to do and acting quickly, you can increase the chances of survival and better outcomes for yourself or someone else experiencing a heart attack or cardiac arrest.

“In cases with a sudden fatal heart rhythm, timely defibrillation could mean the difference between walking out of the hospital or dying — rapid application of an AED is critical,” stresses. “If you’re reading this and are unsure how to perform CPR or use an AED, many places like the American Heart Association, local schools, libraries, and fire departments offer online courses — you could save a life by preparing yourself now.”


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