Categories: Cardiology

Is Heart Attack Same As Cardiac Arrest?

The terms ‘cardiac arrest’ and ‘heart attack’ are often misconceived as the same thing and used interchangeably.  But these are 2 very different conditions. And understanding the basic difference between the two conditions can make all the difference while providing medical response and help in case of such an event.

To differentiate between the two in simple terms; a heart attack is a circulation problem while a cardiac arrest is an electrical problem. Let’s explore both the conditions in detail.

What is a Heart Attack?

Heart attack, also referred to as myocardial infarction, acute coronary syndrome, or coronary thrombosis, occurs when the blood flow to the heart is interrupted due to a clogged or a blocked artery. Because a part of your heart is deprived of sufficient blood and oxygen, the concerned tissues start to die.

The longer the heart attack, the more damage it does.

What is a Cardiac Arrest?

Cardiac arrest, also referred to as cardio-pulmonary arrest in medical terms, is when your heart suddenly stops pumping blood. A person, in absence of blood circulation, will collapse within a few minutes. They might even lose their pulse.

It can cause irregular breathing or no breathing at all, making the person unresponsive. It’s imperative to call for emergency services when a cardiac arrest occurs.

What causes a Heart Attack?

A heart attack is caused by a coronary heart disease, where the coronary arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart are blocked. It happens overtime due to the fatty material building up in the blood vessel. The fatty material can break off causing a blood clot.

When the clot gets clustered into the huge chunk, it can cut off the blood supply to the heart.

What causes a Cardiac Arrest?

In most cases, this fatal condition is caused by Ventricular Fibrillation (an abnormal heart rhythm).

Ventricular Fibrillation can be caused by:

  • Heart attack
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Acute myocarditis
  • Heart valve disease

Cardiac arrest can also be caused by electrocution, severe blood loss, drug overdose or drowning.

What are the signs of a Heart Attack?

Most common signs of a heart attack include:

  • Chest pain, burning feeling in your chest or heaviness
  • Problem in breathing
  • Pain in arms, neck, back, jaw
  • Nauseousness/vomiting
  • Perspiration
  • Feeling dizzy/light-headed

If you notice the above signs, call an ambulance immediately and keep calm until medical help arrives.

What are the signs of a Cardiac Arrest?

Unlike heart attack, there are no definite signs of a cardiac arrest.

If you notice someone breathing abnormally or not breathing at all; laying unconscious and unresponsive, call for an emergency. Performing a CPR can keep a person alive until the ambulance arrives.

Dr. Sunandan Sikdar, Consultant Cardiologist, Narayana Multispeciality Hospital, Barasat

Narayana Health

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