EXPLAINED The Difference Between A Cardiac Arrest And A Heart Attack


New Delhi: Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of death globally, with an estimated 17.9 million deaths worldwide due to CVD in 2019. These deaths accounted for 32 per cent of all global deaths. Of these, 85 per cent were due to heart attack and stroke.

“Cardiac arrest” and “heart attack” are two different heart conditions. Though they are not the same, the terms are often used interchangeably.

Heart attacks are caused by a blockage that stops blood flow to the heart, while a cardiac arrest is caused when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions, according to the American Heart Association. 

What Is The Difference Between A Heart Attack And A Cardiac Arrest?

The death of a muscle tissue due to the loss of blood supply is referred to as a heart attack. This is a “circulation” problem. When a blocked artery prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching a section of the heart, a heart attack occurs.

If the blocked artery is not reopened quickly, the part of the heart normally nourished by that artery begins to die, and the longer a person goes without treatment, the greater the damage.

The blood supply to the heart muscle may be cut off due to a clot in one of the coronary arteries. The heart is still pumping blood around the body during a heart attack, and the person will be conscious and breathing.

In case of a cardiac arrest, the heart stops beating properly. In other words, the heart’s pumping function is “arrested” or stopped. A cardiac arrest is an “electrical” problem.

Electrical malfunction in the heart that causes an irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia, could trigger a cardiac arrest. Since the pumping action of the heart is disrupted, the organ cannot pump blood to the brain, lungs, and other organs, as a result of which the person loses consciousness seconds later, and has no pulse. Cardiac arrests occur suddenly and often without warning. 

If proper steps are not taken immediately after one has a cardiac arrest, they may die. A CPR can be performed to reverse a cardiac arrest, and a defibrillator can be used to shock the heart and restore normal heart rhythm within a few minutes.

Nevertheless, cardiac arrests and heart attacks could be linked. A sudden cardiac arrest can occur after a heart attack, or during recovery, according to the American Heart Association. 

Though heart attacks increase the risk for sudden cardiac arrest, most heart attacks do not lead to sudden cardiac arrest. 

However, heart attack is a common cause when sudden cardiac arrests occur. Other Earth conditions which may disrupt the heart’s rhythm and lead to sudden cardiac arrest include a thickened heart muscle (cardiomyopathy), heart failure, and arrhythmias, particularly ventricular fibrillation, which is a type of abnormal heart rhythm characterised by twitching of lower heart chambers. As a result, the heart does not pump blood to the rest of the body. 

If a person has a heart attack, a bystander should dial the local emergency number and seek medical help. While waiting for emergency help, the person who has had a heart attack must chew and swallow an aspirin because it helps keep the blood from clotting, and can reduce heart damage. 

If the person is unconscious, CPR should be performed by a bystander. An automatic external defibrillator can also be used.

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