The term “heart attack” is often mistakenly used to describe cardiac arrest. While a heart attack may cause cardiac arrest, the two terms don’t mean the same thing. Lets look at both the conditions here.
- Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart malfunctions and stops beating unexpectedly. Cardiac arrest is triggered by an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). With its pumping action disrupted, the heart cannot pump blood to the brain, lungs and other organs.
- Seconds later, a person comes unresponsive, is not breathing or is only gasping. Death occurs within minutes if the victim does not receive treatment.
- Cardiac arrest can be reversible in some victims if it’s treated within a few minutes. If two people are available to help, one should begin CPR immediately while there other calls ambulance and finds an AED.
- A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked. A blocked artery prevents oxygen rich blood from reaching a section of the heart. If the blocked artery is not reopened quickly, the part of the heart normally nourished by that artery beings to die.
- Symptoms of heart attach may be immediate and may include intense discomfort in the chest or other areas of the upper body, shortness of breath, cold sweats, and/or nausea/vomiting. More often, though, symptoms start slowly and persists for hours, days or weeks before a heart attack. Unlike with cardiac arrest, the heart usually does not step beating during a heart attack. The longer the person goes without treatment, the greater the damage.
- Even if you’re no sure its a heart attack, call an ambulance. Every minute matters.
Most heart attacks do not lead to cardiac arrest. But when cardiac arrest occurs, heart attack is a common cause. Other conditions may also disrupt the hearts rhythm and lead to cardiac arrest.