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All about cardiac arrest vs. heart attack

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Sudden cardiac arrest and heart attack. Are they the same

Although most people use the terms cardiac arrest and heart attack interchangeably, they are not the same thing. Both conditions are life threatening, but understanding the difference between the two can save many lives. Let’s dive deep and try to understand the difference between the two.

What is the difference between cardiac arrest and heart attack?

Let’s try to understand the difference between the two using simple metaphors. Think of your heart as a house. A house has both electricity and water supply. Any interruption in the power supply (heart rhythm) can cause cardiac arrest, while any interruption in the water supply (blood flow) can cause a heart attack.

Still Confused? Let’s discuss this in detail.

What is a heart attack?

Imagine the heart is a house. Like any house, it takes pipes to get water. In the case of the heart, these tubes are coronary arteries and water is blood. Now imagine that for some reason there is a blockage of these tubes (coronary arteries). These blockages affect the blood supply to the heart. Now the heart muscles do not get enough oxygenated blood and start to break down (heart attack).

What is cardiac arrest?

Now our house needs electricity to run its functionaries. Our heart also needs the strength to carry out its pumping activity. This energy comes from the heart’s built-in electrical conduction system. Conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or previous heart attacks can disrupt the functioning of this electrical system and cause an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia). Because of this, the heart can suddenly stop working and the blood supply to other organs such as the lungs and brain is cut off.

What are the most common signs and symptoms of a heart attack?

Patients often remain conscious during a heart attack. In the event of a heart attack, there is still some blood flow despite an obstruction to the blood flow. As a result, blood flows to vital organs like the brain and keeps the patient conscious.

Some common signs and symptoms of a heart attack are

  • Chest pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sensation of pain or pressure in the stomach, jaw, neck or arm
  • sweat
  • Weakness and fatigue

What are the most common signs and symptoms of cardiac arrest?

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) patients usually pass out within minutes because the blood supply to the brain is cut off. There is little to no time to react. More than fifty percent of patients who experience cardiac arrest may not have symptoms, while others may have:

  • Bluish discoloration of the face
  • Severe breathing difficulties
  • Chest pain
  • dizziness
  • Fatigue and malaise

Is there a common link between heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest?

Heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest are linked. Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) can follow a heart attack or occur during recovery from a heart attack. Heart attacks increase the likelihood of sudden cardiac arrest. Most heart attacks do not always lead to cardiac arrest. However, when sudden cardiac arrest occurs, a heart attack is one of the most common causes. Other heart conditions that can lead to sudden cardiac arrest include heart failure, thickened heart muscle (cardiomyopathy), long QT syndrome, and arrhythmias, especially ventricular fibrillation.

What to do if someone has a heart attack

In a heart attack, every minute counts. Even if you are not sure whether it is a heart attack or not, call the emergency number. The ambulance service can start treatment as soon as they arrive, much earlier than if someone comes to the hospital in their personal vehicle. Rescue workers are also trained to resuscitate the heart when it stops working.

What to do if someone has cardiac arrest?

Sudden cardiac arrest is reversible in most patients if treated within a few minutes. First call the emergency services. Then, get an automated external defibrillator, if available, and use it right away. Begin CPR immediately and continue until the ambulance arrives.

Sudden cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in India. About 200,000 sudden cardiac deaths occur annually in India. Knowing how to react when someone has sudden cardiac arrest can save lives. Survival rates can go up dramatically if more and more people take the right steps and know what to do.

Dr. Dhananjay RS | Specialist – Cardiology – Adults, Cardiology – Pediatrics | SS Narayana Heart Center, Davangere

Thank You For Reading!


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