Patient Basics: Heart Attack vs Cardiac Arrest

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Patient Basics: Heart Attack vs Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac arrest and heart attack — the terms might be familiar to most people but are often confused with one another. Although the terms heart attack and cardiac arrest are often used interchangeably, they are two different heart conditions. While there can be some overlap between them in terms of cause and effect, they are actually two distinct heart-related issues, each with its own set of causes and treatments. Understanding cardiac arrest and heart attacks could make all the difference in the world when it comes to helping someone experiencing either one.

What happens during a heart attack?

A heart attack happens when there is a blockage in the coronary arteries, which could be due to various health issues like smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, lack of physical activity, unhealthy lifestyle choices, or a bad diet. The heart is a muscle and it requires oxygen-rich blood to function. A blockage in the coronary arteries causes a heart attack as the blood flow to the cardiac muscle is stopped. If the blocked coronary arteries are not opened quickly, the heart muscles may start dying.

When a heart attack happens, the person usually has a pulse, is breathing, and can respond to questions. Sometimes, the symptoms of a heart attack are mild, lasting for hours together. Other times, the symptoms are intense and felt immediately. When a heart attack is severe or causes an abnormal heart rhythm, it can even lead to cardiac arrest.

What happens during a cardiac arrest?

A cardiac arrest, also known as cardiopulmonary arrest, occurs when your heart suddenly stops pumping blood. The heart’s electrical system malfunctions, which causes an irregular heartbeat known as arrhythmia. This abruptly stops the heart from pumping blood to the brain, lungs, and other vital organs—making the chances of survival very slim if unattended immediately.

With cardiac arrest, the person has no pulse, is not breathing, and is unresponsive. It can happen to anyone at any age and tends to happen without warning. Someone who has had a cardiac arrest will collapse and become unconscious. Their breathing will be irregular and may even stop without immediate medical attention. In a majority of cases, cardiac arrest is caused by an abnormal heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation (VF). VF is an electrical fault, where the electrical activity of the heart gets so chaotic the heart stops pumping suddenly and quivers instead. Prompt medical attention can maximize the chances of survival and minimize damage to the heart.

Warning Signs of Heart Attack

Learn the signs for heart attack, but remember: Even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, get it checked out.

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes – or it may go away and then return. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath (with or without chest discomfort)
  • Other signs include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, and lightheadedness.

What can you do?

It is critical to know how to respond if someone suffers a heart attack or cardiac arrest. Survival rates could double if the person gets immediate medical help. If you or someone you’re with is having symptoms of a heart attack, don’t wait to get help; don’t wait to see if it will go away. Call for medical help right away.

Minutes matter!

Even though these conditions are different, both cardiac arrest and heart attack require a fast response. Every minute matters when it comes to recovering to a good quality of life. Fast action can save lives.

Cardiac Care at Prashanth Hospitals

Prashanth Heart Foundation, the best hospital for heart surgery in Chennai, is equipped with a 24 x 7 state-of-the-art 3rd generation Cath Lab, EP Lab, and dedicated Cardiac Care Unit (CCU) to diagnose and treat a wide spectrum of heart problems with emergency outpatient and inpatient set up. We offer the latest in cardiology techniques, drugs, interventions, and best cardiac surgeons in Chennai – making us one of the top cardiac hospitals in India.

Request an appointment with our top cardiologists today.