Categories: Cardiology

Cardiac Arrest Vs Heart Attack – Causes, symptoms, and Treatment

Sudden Cardiac Arrest and Heart Attack. Are they the same?

Though most people use the terms cardiac arrest and heart attack interchangeably, they are not the same. Both these conditions are life-threatening but understanding the difference between these two can save many lives. Let us delve deep and try to understand the difference between the two.

What is the difference between cardiac arrest and heart attack?

Let us try to understand the difference between the two using simple metaphors. Consider your heart as a house. A house has both electrical supply and water supply. Any disruption in electrical supply (heart rhythm) may cause cardiac arrest, while any disruption in water supply (blood flow) can cause a heart attack.

Still, Confused? Let us discuss this in detail.

What is a heart attack?

Imagine heart is a house. Like every house, it needs pipes to get water. In the case of the heart, these pipes are coronary arteries and, water is blood. Now imagine due to any reason, there is a blockage of these pipes (coronary arteries). These blockages will compromise the blood supply to the heart. Now heart muscles do not get enough oxygenated blood and start degrading (heart attack).

What is cardiac arrest?

Now our house needs the power to run its functionaries. Similarly, our heart needs the power to carry out its pumping activity. This power comes from a built-in electrical conduction system of the heart. Conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or previous heart attacks can disrupt the functioning of this electrical system causing erratic heart rhythm (arrhythmia). Due to this, the heart may stop working suddenly, and blood supply to other organs like the lungs and brain ceases.

What are the most common signs and symptoms of a heart attack?

During a heart attack, patients often stay conscious. In a heart attack, though there is an obstruction in blood flow still some circulation is there. As a result, blood keeps going to vital organs like the brain, keeping the patient conscious.

Some common signs and symptoms of heart attack are

  • Pain in chest
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Feeling of pain or pressure in stomach, jaw, neck, or arm
  • Sweating
  • Weakness and fatigue

What are the most common signs and symptoms of cardiac arrest?

Patients having a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) generally become unconscious within minutes because of disruption in blood supply to the brain. There is little-to-no time to react. More than fifty percent of patients experiencing cardiac arrest may have no symptoms, while others could have the following:

  • Bluish discolouration of the face
  • Severe breathing difficulty
  • Pain in chest
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue and malaise

Is there a common link between Heart attack and Sudden cardiac arrest?

Heart attack and Sudden cardiac arrest are linked. Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) can follow a heart attack or may occur during recovery from a heart attack. Heart attacks increase the chances of a sudden cardiac arrest.  Most heart attacks do not always lead to cardiac arrest. But when sudden cardiac arrest occurs, a heart attack is one of the most common causes. Other heart conditions that can bring a sudden cardiac arrest are heart failure, thickened heart muscle(cardiomyopathy), long Q-T syndrome, and arrhythmias, particularly ventricular fibrillation.

What to do if someone experiences a heart attack?

Every minute matters in case of a cardiac emergency. Even if you are not sure if it is a heart attack or not, call the emergency response number. Emergency medical services can begin treatment as soon as they arrive, much sooner than if someone gets to the hospital by personal vehicle. The emergency staff is also trained to revive the heart if it has stopped working.

What to do if someone experiences a cardiac arrest?

Sudden Cardiac arrest is reversible in most patients if they receive treatment within a few minutes. Firstly, call for emergency medical services. Then arrange for an automated external defibrillator if available and use it immediately. Start CPR immediately and continue until emergency medical reaches.

Sudden cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in India. Roughly 200,000 sudden cardiac deaths occur annually in India. If you know how to respond if someone is in sudden cardiac arrest, you may save a life.  Survival rates can drastically increase if more and more people could take the correct action and know what to do.

Dr. Dhananjay R S | Consultant – Cardiology – Adult, Cardiology – Paediatric | SS Narayana Heart Centre, Davangere

Narayana Health

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