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What is the Difference Between Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest?

December 27, 2012

Many of us think that heart attack and cardiac arrest are the same condition, but this is not true. A heart attack is caused by a blockage of blood flow to the heart, whereas a cardiac arrest occurs when the heart ceases to function suddenly. It is important to understand these terms, because it may help you save your own life or someone else’s life when one of these conditions occurs.

Cardiac Arrest

cardiac arrest heart attack differenceA cardiac arrest refers to a sudden electrical malfunction in the heart. The heart experiences irregular rhythm, or arrhythmia, and stops pumping blood to the lungs, brain, and other organs. The affected person can become unconscious and experience a total loss of pulse within seconds. Failure to provide appropriate treatment within minutes will most likely result in death.

Heart Attack

A heart attack, on the other hand, occurs when a blockage in an artery prevents blood from reaching a certain part of the heart muscle, causing it to die. As long as that part of the heart is deprived of blood supply, the heart will continue to sustain more damage. Prompt treatment is required to prevent further damage. Usually, the heart does not stop beating during a heart attack. In most cases, symptoms of heart attack develop slowly, but they can also be immediate and intense.

How are Cardiac Arrest and Heart Attack Linked?

It is possible for a sudden cardiac arrest to occur when a person is experiencing or recovering from a heart attack. Heart attack is one of the conditions that can cause disruption of heart rhythm, and therefore, it can increase the risk of cardiac arrest. Other conditions that can disrupt heart rhythm include heart failure, thickened heart muscle, and long Q-T syndrome.

If you want to learn more about cardiac arrest and heart attack, you can speak to one of our cardiologists.

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