The difference between heart attack and cardiac arrest

By June Shannon Heart News   |   19th Oct 2018

Learn the difference between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest.

Many people use the terms “heart attack” and “cardiac arrest” interchangeably, incorrectly assuming they mean the same thing.

However, a heart attack and a cardiac arrest are two different but equally serious heart events, both of which require immediate medical attention.

A heart attack is caused by the coronary arteries, that supply blood to your heart muscle, suddenly becoming blocked. This blockage causes damage to your heart muscle. You might also hear of a heart attack called acute coronary syndrome or myocardial infarction (MI).

A cardiac arrest means there has been a sudden loss of function of the heart causing it to stop pumping blood around the body. This can occur in a person with or without heart disease. This happens due to a sudden disturbance in the heart’s rhythm which results in the heart not beating or beating too little to keep the person alive.

So, a heart attack is where the blood flow to the heart is stopped due to a blockage and a cardiac arrest is where the heart itself suddenly stops beating.

An easy way to remember this may be that a cardiac arrest happens when the heart stops or ‘arrests’, while a heart attack is when the heart is ‘under attack’ due to a blockage.

Commenting Brigid Sinnott, BLS coordinator with the Irish Heart Foundation said, “cardiac arrest requires an immediate response and the person suffering the cardiac arrest needs immediate CPR.

“In both situations the ambulance service needs to be called immediately on either 112 or 999. In the event of a cardiac arrest the person will be unresponsive and not breathing properly, whereas when the person is suffering a heart attack they will still be responding and will be breathing. It would be great if we could educate the public in the difference between both emergencies.”

 

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