Knowing the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest

Two terms with different meanings and how important it is to know what they mean

heart-problemHeart Attack 

  • It occurs when blood flow to heart is blocked
  • A blocked artery prevents oxygen rich blood from reaching a section of the heart
  • Symptoms may be immediate.  It may include intense discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath, cold sweats and vomiting.
  • It occurs, when blood flow to a section of the heart is restricted. The primary culprit is typically coronary heart disease, which causes plaque to build up inside arteries; if the plaque ruptures, it creates a blood clot that can block blood flow to a portion of the heart muscle.
  • Without sufficient oxygen, the muscle begins to die. The longer treatment is delayed, the greater the damage.
  • The longer the person goes without treatment, the greater the damage.
  • Call emergency medical service.

Symptoms of heart attack

  • Pain or discomfort in upper abdomen, chest, arms, or jaw, or between shoulder blades
  • Tightness in chest, neck, arm
  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Light headedness or dizziness
  • Unusual level of fatigue
  • Cold sweat
  • Indigestion, nausea, vomiting
  • Shortness of breath

What to do: Dial 102 or have someone drive you to the emergency room

Sudden Cardiac Arrest

  • Occurs when the malfunctions and stops beating unexpectedly
  • The heart cannot pump blood to the brain, lungs and other organs
  • A person becomes unresponsive, is not breathing and gasping only
  • If treated within a few minutes the patient can be saved.
  • A technique of Cardio-pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) should be started immediately.

It occurs, when the heart stops beating and normal blood flow to the brain and organs stops. When the heart’s electrical system goes on the fritz, it can cause arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats.

The arrhythmia that causes Sudden Cardiac Arrest is called ventricular fibrillation. SCA can also occur after a heart attack or during recovery from one; heart attacks can increase one’s risk for SCA. Without treatment, death can occur in 8 to 10 minutes.

Symptoms pf sudden cardiac arrest include:

  • Eyes rolling back into head
  • Unconsciousness
  • Lack of breathing
  • Turning blue
  • No pulse

What to do: Call 102, and then start CPR. (Here are the basics of CPR). If available, use an Automated External Defibrillator, which delivers an electrical shock to restore heartbeat.

Dr Vijay Surase, Senior cardiologist, from Mumbai, said, “Cardiac arrest can happen because of asthma, gastro, hig altitude fall, kidney failure etc. It is the final destination in these types of causes and can not be just caused because of heart related problems. People misunderstanding that every cardiac arrest is heart attack. Not all who have arrest develop an attack. With immediate assistance death is avoidable. In case of heart attack person suffers chest pain and does not necessarily falls unconscious. An emergency ambulance should be called in that case.”