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What is the difference between Heart attack and Cardiac arrest?

For many heart attack and cardiac arrest are the same, however a detailed understanding of the two helps to know the difference.
Heart diseases or cardiovascular diseases include a range of conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels. Heart diseases like the heart attack and cardiac arrest are very common heart conditions. There is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding of the two, with one term used for another by many people. Heart attack and cardiac arrest are both different, as the former refers to stoppage of blood flow to the heart and the latter refers to sudden stopping of heart beat. If heart attack is a blood circulatory problem, cardiac arrest is an electrical condition.

What is heart attack?

The human heart is made up of muscles. Like all muscles, it needs continuous supply of oxygenated blood to function normally. The coronary arteries provide for the continuous supply of oxygenated blood to the heart’s muscles. When there is blockage or blood clot in the coronary arteries, the flow of blood to heart muscles stops. This causes few heart muscles to die. Significantly, the longer the person goes without treatment, the greater will be the damage to the heart. The symptoms of heart attack are evident for hours, days and weeks, before it reaches a life-threatening condition.

Heart attack and Cardiac arrest

What is cardiac arrest?

Cardiac arrest occurs due to electrical malfunction leading to irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia. Once the heart’s function is disrupted, vital organs of the body like brain and lungs fail to receive blood. The symptoms of cardiac arrest are immediate and evident as loss of consciousness and no pulse. Death may occur if the patient does not receive immediate treatment.

What is the link between heart attack and cardiac arrest?

Heart attacks increase the risk of cardiac arrests, so a cardiac arrest may follow heart attack. Other heart conditions may also lead to cardiac arrest like cardiomyopathy, heart failure, ventricular fibrillation and long Q-T syndrome.

What causes heart attack and cardiac arrest?

There are different causes for cardiac arrest such as Abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia), Ventricular tachycardia, Coronary heart disease, Changes of the heart structure, Pacemaker failure, Respiratory arrest, Choking, Drowning, Electrocution, Hypothermia, Dramatic drop in blood pressure, Drug abuse and Excessive alcohol consumption. Heart attack may occur due to coronary heart disease. The risk of CHD is evident in those who smoke, take unhealthy diet, who are obese, diabetics, sedentary and have a family history of heart disease.

What are the symptoms of heart attack and cardiac arrest?

Symptoms of a heart attack include Chest pain, spreading of chest pain to other areas, most commonly to the arms, jaw, neck, back and abdomen, shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, feeling or being sick, anxiety, light-headedness or dizziness, sweating, weakness and palpitations. Symptoms of a cardiac arrest include sudden loss of consciousness/ responsiveness, no breathing and no pulse.

What are the immediate steps that can be taken during a heart attack or cardiac arrest?

During a heart attack you should immediately call the emergency response number. Up to an hour or sooner than that, you should take the patient to the nearest hospital for treatment. For cardiac arrest you should start Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) before professionals arrive. If one does CPR, another should start calling the emergency response number for professional support.

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