Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest

The Difference Between Heart Attack Vs Cardiac Arrest

Last updated on October 20th, 2022 at 07:29 am

What are the differences between heart attacks and cardiac arrests? A heart attack or cardiac arrest happens when blood flow to the heart stops.

Difference between heart attack and cardiac arrest

Heart attack vs Cardiac arrest. People often think that a heart attack is the same thing as a cardiac arrest. This, however, is not true. In order to understand the difference between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest, it is first necessary to understand what happens in both processes.

What is a heart attack?

The heart is a muscle, and like all muscles, it requires an oxygen-rich blood supply. This is provided to the heart by coronary arteries. A heart attack occurs when there is a blockage of the coronary arteries. This is often caused by a blood clot. Such a blockage, if not quickly resolved, can cause parts of the heart muscle to die.

What is cardiac arrest?

A cardiac arrest differs from a heart attack. In a cardiac arrest, the heart actually stops beating; whereas in a heart attack, the heart normally continues to beat, even though the blood supply to the heart is disrupted.

Symptoms of heart attack and cardiac arrest

Besides the physiological mechanism being different, the symptoms of a heart attack and a cardiac arrest also vary.

Symptoms of a heart attack include:

  1. Chest pain: this is often a feeling of tightness in the centre of the chest which may last for several minutes and will not decrease upon resting (although the most common symptom of a heart attack, not all patients having a heart attack will experience chest pain)
  2. Spreading of chest pain in other areas, most commonly to the arms, jaw, neck, back, and abdomen
  3. Shortness of breath
  4. Coughing
  5. Wheezing
  6. Feeling or being sick
  7. Anxiety
  8. Light-headedness or dizziness
  9. Sweating
  10. Weakness
  11. Palpitations (noticeable heartbeats)

Symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest include:

  1. Chest pain and palpitations
  2. Loss of consciousness
  3. No pulse,
  4. Shortness of breath or no breathing
  5. Person may collapse
  6. Vomiting

Causes of heart attack and cardiac arrest

When someone has a heart attack, their heart muscle does not receive enough oxygen. Learn what causes a heart attack and how to prevent one!

Cardiac arrests causes include:

  1. Ventricular fibrillation: an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) where the lower chambers of the heart (the ventricles) beat irregularly
  2. Ventricular tachycardia
  3. Coronary heart disease
  4. Changes in the heart structure
  5. Pacemaker failure
  6. Respiratory arrest
  7. Choking
  8. Drowning
  9. Electrocution
  10. Hypothermia
  11. A dramatic drop in blood pressure
  12. Drug abuse
  13. Excessive alcohol consumption
  14. Several unknown reasons

A cardiac arrest can also be caused by a heart attack

A heart attack itself involves a cutoff in the blood supply to part of the heart muscle. If a large enough portion of the heart is affected, then the heart may stop beating, i.e. a cardiac arrest may occur.

Heart attack causes include:

What about heart attacks themselves? What causes them? Well, in contrast to cardiac arrests, heart attacks are caused by one major factor of coronary heart disease (CHD). CHD is a condition that is caused by fatty deposits building up in the coronary arteries, which provide oxygenated blood to the heart. This is also known as atherosclerosis.

  1. Smoking
  2. Unhealthy diet, one that is high in saturated fat
  3. High blood pressure
  4. Diabetes
  5. Obese
  6. Not exercise frequently
  7. Older Age, in particular, older men
  8. Family history of heart disease
  9. Exposure to air pollution, particularly traffic pollution

People with CHD may experience a heart attack if a plaque (a raised patch on the artery wall) splits and causes a blood clot which blocks the coronary artery. 

Diagnosis of heart attack and cardiac arrest

  1. Electrocardiogram
  2. Blood tests to check the levels of troponin, CPK, CRP, LDH, cholesterol, potassium, magnesium, hormones, and other chemicals that may affect your heart’s ability to function properly.
  3. Imaging tests like chest X-ray, echocardiogram, nuclear scan
  4. Other tests like Electrical system (electrophysiological) testing and mapping, coronary catheterisation (angiogram), ejection fraction testing.

Conclusion

There is a difference between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest. A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to part of the heart stops and thus causes a section of the heart muscle to die; whereas a cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops beating. There are various symptoms of a heart attack. In contrast, the major symptoms of a cardiac arrest are unconsciousness, lack of breathing and no pulse. Finally, there are many causes of a cardiac arrest; whereas the primary cause of a heart attack is coronary heart disease.

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