Difference Between Cardiac Arrest and a Heart Attack

Cardiac arrests and heart attacks are two physical occurrences that are often confused with one another.  Sometimes, the terms are used near interchangeably, or one is mistaken for the other.

Though they can be linked to each other, and both involve heart malfunctions, the two are distinctly different.

What is Cardiac Arrest?

Cardiac arrest is a result of an electrical malfunction in the heart. This causes the heart beat to stop or beat irregularly, cutting off the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain and organs.  Without emergency help, a victim can die in minutes.

Common causes of cardiac arrest include loss of breathing, choking, electrocution, drowning, and most commonly, heart attacks. This is where some of the confusion stems from. A heart attack, however, is a separate situation.

What is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack is something that begins when an artery is blocked, preventing oxygen-rich blood from reaching a section of the heart.  If this continues for too long, the part of the heart that’s cutoff from blood begins to die.

Though heart attacks are viewed as a sudden event, the effects generally build up over time, often taking days or weeks (even months) before reaching a peak.  That peak can ultimately result in cardiac arrest which stops the heart.

However, a heart attack itself does not cause the heart to stop beating.

The symptoms of a heart attack include discomfort in the chest and upper body, nausea, and cold sweats.  In addition, women may experience shortness of breath and back or jaw pain.

The Link Between Heart Attacks and Cardiac Arrest

As mentioned before, heart attacks can often cause cardiac arrest due to their weakening of heart function.  A heart attack can also increase the chances of cardiac arrest happening in the future.

What Can You Do to Help?

If a person around you is experiencing cardiac arrest or a heart attack, it’s vital that you act immediately.  The first thing you should do in both cases is call for emergency help.  If the person is experiencing cardiac arrest, you should begin to perform CPR.

When it comes to cardiac arrest, performing CPR will likely be the difference between life or death.

To perform CPR correctly and effectively, you need proper training.  Becoming CPR certified is easier than you think.  For CPR and first aid certification, MN residents can register for one of our training classes or contact us directly to schedule one at their own location.

Contact us today!