Most people use heart attack and cardiac arrest as interchangeable terms. The confusion is understandable, as they both deal with the heart. There are differences between the two ailments, however, and it can be very important to understand those differences.
What is a heart attack?
A heart attack occurs when an artery gets blocked and prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching a section of the heart. The section that typically gets nourishment from that artery will begin to die if the blockage is not dealt with fast enough. The longer it remains untreated, the greater the damage.
A heart attack may have symptoms that are immediate and intense, but it is more common for the symptoms to start slowly and last for hours, days, or weeks leading up to a heart attack. As opposed to cardiac arrest, during a heart attack, the heart usually does not stop beating.
What is cardiac arrest?
Cardiac arrest happens suddenly and usually without warning. It occurs due to a malfunction in the heart that causes arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat. Because the pumping action is disrupted, the heart can no longer pump blood to the brain, lungs, and other organs. In just a matter of seconds, the person would lose consciousness and have no pulse. If the person does not get treatment, they could be dead within minutes.
As mentioned above, some heart attacks or sudden and intense. However, most start slowly with mild pain and discomfort. You know your body better than anyone, so call 911 if you experience any of the following symptoms.
- Chest discomfort. This may feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain that originates in the center of the chest and lasts longer than a few minutes.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. This can include pain in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
- Shortness of breath. This can be with or without chest discomfort.
- Other symptoms can include breaking out in cold sweats, nausea, or lightheadedness.
Immediate and drastic signs of cardiac arrest include:
- Sudden collapse
- No pulse
- No breathing
- Loss of consciousness
Signs and symptoms before cardiac arrest can include:
- Chest discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Fast-beating, fluttering or pounding heart (palpitations)
Although these two heart conditions have quite a few differences, they are linked. Cardiac arrest can happen after a heart attack or during recovery. The risk for cardiac arrest increases due to heart attacks; however, most heart attacks do not lead to cardiac arrest. If a cardiac arrest occurs, a heart attack is the most common cause. Other heart conditions can disrupt the rhythm of the heart and cause cardiac arrest, as well. These conditions include a thickened heart muscle (cardiomyopathy), heart failure, arrhythmias, ventricular fibrillation, and long Q-T syndrome.
We hope this information on heart attack vs. cardiac arrest is helpful to you.
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Kayla is a graduate of Texas A&M University and joined the marketing team at Empower Brokerage in early 2021. She creates content for the company websites and assists with various marketing campaigns. LinkedIn Profile