Heart Attack, Heart Failure, Cardiac arrest: Major differences and what to know

In recent times, there have been a spate of deaths reported and mostly linked with Cardiac Arrest and Heart Attack. The high profile nature of some of these deaths (notably sports icons, celebrities etc) has increased the discussions on this very pertinent topic.

This increase in awareness has also increased several misconceptions and half-truths in the public sphere, which if allowed to continue might be more injurious to the larger topic of Cardiac Arrest and Heart Attack. We tried our best to note some major characteristics and distinguish factor in this piece citing references if needed for further reading.

What are Heart Attack, Heart Failure and Cardiac Arrest?

Due to its simplicity and easy explanation; we will use the definitions by Christian Nordqvist on Medical News Today:

  • Heart attack – this is death of heart muscle due to the blockage of a coronary artery. The heart muscle dies because it is starved of oxygen (because blood is not getting to it).
  • Heart failure – this means the heart muscle cannot pump blood around the body properly. It is not a heart attack.
  • Cardiac arrest – this means the heart stops, blood circulation stops, and there is no pulse.

These terms are often used interchangeably because of the basic understanding that exist of them. It is important however to distinguish so as to be in a good position to help whenever this happens anyone around you.

According to Health Magazine The most straightforward way to distinguish between these two heart conditions is to remember that a heart attack is a circulation problem while cardiac arrest is an electrical problem. If someone is having a heart attack, blood flow to the heart is physically blocked by a clogged or narrowed artery. The longer the heart attack goes on, the worse the damage is. That is because as your heart muscle is starved of blood and oxygen, parts of the tissue start to die. In cardiac arrest, however, there is no blockage of blood flow. An electrical malfunction causes the heart to stop beating altogether, which means blood isnt flowing anywhere in the body.

The two conditions also have vastly different symptoms. People in cardiac arrest lose consciousness and do not have a pulse. Yes, that is just as serious as it sounds: Cardiac arrest can be fatal in minutes. Heart attacks dont make you faint or stop your pulseinstead, theyre more likely to produce chest, arm, or jaw pain; shortness of breath; and cold sweats; as well as nausea or overall sluggishness and fatigue, especially among women. While heart attacks can also be deadly, the symptoms can start hours, days, or even weeks before a full-blown attack, giving you time to seek emergency medical attention.

While there is nothing exactly new to put up in this piece, our aim is to do the best to engage you on the major factors to consider and the characteristics of these ailments from well researched sources. Below are the 5 major differences between Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest according to the British Heart Foundation which basically itemized all the noted areas in this piece:

  1. A heart attack is not the same as a cardiac arrest.
  2. A heart attack is when one of the coronary arteries becomes blocked. The heart muscle is robbed of its vital blood supply and, if left untreated, will begin to die because it is not getting enough oxygen.
  3. A cardiac arrest is when a person’s heart stops pumping blood around their body and they stop breathing normally.
  4. Many cardiac arrests in adults happen because of a heart attack. This is because a person who is having a heart attack may develop a dangerous heart rhythm, which can cause a cardiac arrest.
  5. A heart attack and a cardiac arrest are both emergency situations. Call local emergency numbers (767, 112) straight away.

In our subsequent piece, we will discuss the symptoms and causes so as to help our readers make informed healthy decisions on their lives if any runs contrary of the required norms.

Written by Adebowale Adejugbe


Heart Attack, Heart Failure, Cardiac arrest: Major differences and what to know

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- Founder of Cardiac Community

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