What’s the Difference Between a Heart Attack & Cardiac Arrest?

HEARTEvery year in the US, approximately 1.5 million people have a heart attack and 350,000 people suffer from cardiac arrest. Both events are two of the leading causes of heart related deaths nationwide. Although both terms sound similar, there is a key difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest.

A heart attack occurs when an artery becomes blocked, preventing the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart. The longer the heart is cut off from its oxygen supply, the more damage it causes, which can lead to heart failure or death. The key to treating a heart attack is early detection.  Oftentimes, symptoms are present days or even weeks before the attack occurs.

According to the American Heart Association, the most common warning signs of a heart attack include chest or upper body discomfort, shortness of breath, cold sweats, nausea and lightheadedness. Women may also experience additional symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, and neck, back or jaw pain.

Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart starts beating too fast and is unable to pump blood effectively throughout the body. One of the main concerns during a cardiac arrest is the lack of blood flow to the brain and lungs, which usually causes the person to lose consciousness and have no pulse. Without immediate treatment, cardiac arrest is often fatal. Unlike a heart attack, cardiac arrest occurs suddenly with minimal symptoms that may include dizziness, chest pain and difficulty breathing.

It’s important to recognize the difference in symptoms so you can spot an occurrence of a heart attack or cardiac arrest. Both events are life-threatening emergencies that require immediate medical attention.

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