It’s Not Always A Heart Attack!
“It was a heart attack”, “he died of cardiac arrest”, “it was a case of heart failure”. We hear people make these statements often interchangeably when someone has a heart condition. Are they all – heart attack, cardiac arrest, heart failure – the same? Or are they vary from one another? Let’s take a look at each of them and figure out.
Before we go ahead any further, let’s try to understand the organ in a broad manner that keeps ticking irrespective of whether we are pumping iron at the gym or sleeping like a log.
The heart is a muscle, the size of a fist located behind the breastbone. The arteries and veins through which the heart pumps blood to different parts of the body are called the Cardiovascular system. The heart has four chambers and each comes with a task of its own.
There are many conditions – ranging from congenital to lifestyle-induced – that affect the heart. Having understood the basic structure of the heart, now let’s delve deep into each of the three conditions that are neither same nor interchangeable.
When there’s a plaque in the arteries, the blood flow to the heart is slowed and eventually blocked. This condition is called a heart attack. During a heart attack, the muscle begins to die. It’s for this reason, taking the patient to the hospital without time-lapse is critical in the event of a heart attack. It takes surgery to clear the obstruction and restore the muscle.
Symptoms of a heart attack include chest pain, shortness of breath, or week-long fatigue. It must also be noted that symptoms vary from person to person. For instance, some people feel abdomen pain during a heart attack. Mistaking it for indigestion can lead to time loss and eventually death. Seeking medical help at the earliest is the only way to save a patient from the throes of a vicious heart attack.
In cardiac arrest, the heart simply stops beating. If a heart attack is a circulation problem, cardiac arrest is a condition in which the heart stops beating and hence requires to be restarted. Though it’s a temporary condition, medical intervention is of utmost importance. If not treated on time, cardiac arrest can lead to death within minutes.
Dizziness, loss of consciousness, shortness of breath, etc., are some of the symptoms of cardiac arrest. The affected person soon becomes irresponsive and will have trouble breathing. With Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), it’s reported that the survival rate of the affected can be improved up to 23%. Yet, another method to revive a patient is to use the Automated External Defibrillator (AED).
When the heart muscle fails to pump the required amount of blood to other parts of the body, it’s known as heart failure. Though it’s a chronic condition, it can also surface suddenly. Since the heart doesn’t have enough power to pump blood, the body will increase blood pressure to make the heart beat faster.
Though there won’t be any symptoms in the earlier stages of heart failure, later on, the condition will be accompanied by various symptoms. They include weight gain, nausea, cough, dizziness, fatigue, increased urination at night, rapid breath, bluish skin, etc. Heart failure is often the symptom of other diseases such as heart disease, thyroid gland troubles, kidney failure, etc., just like in the other two conditions, it’s of critical importance to get treated on time in case of heart failure.
Now, we have seen what is what and can distinguish one from the other. Remember, if you think that you have a symptom that can lead to any of the three conditions mentioned above, the first thing you need to do is to seek medical help. To have a healthy heart is to lead an active life.
Dr. Anupama Hedge | Senior Consultant – Cardiology – Adult | M S Ramaiah Narayana Heart Centre, M S Ramaiah Nagar