Cardiac arrest vs. heart attack: let’s learn the difference

Cardiac arrest vs. heart attack: let’s learn the difference

Many people tend to baffle about cardiac arrest vs. heart attack. Still, it is very crucial to note that there is a vast difference between cardiac arrest vs. heart attack, and these are two completely different medical conditions.

Understanding these differences can help save lives.

What is cardiac arrest?

Cardiac arrest, sometimes called sudden cardiac arrest, means cessation of the heartbeat. This is due to a sudden loss of blood flow resulting from the failure of the heart to pump effectively. It is an emergency and deadly medical condition if not treated immediately.

Symptoms of cardiac arrest include loss of consciousness and abnormal or absent of bleeding. Right before it happens, you could be exhausted, weak, shortness of breath, nausea, or sick to your stomach. You may pass out or have compressive chest pain. But not always. Cardiac arrest happens with no warning signs at all.

To know the difference between cardiac arrest vs. heart failure, we must know about cardiac arrest first. The most communal cause of cardiac arrest is coronary artery disease. Less common causes include significant blood loss, either internal or external, lack of oxygen (hypoxia), deficient potassium, heart failure, and intense, strenuous exercise.

What is a heart attack?

Heart attack, also accepted as myocardial infarction(MI), is a severe medical emergency in which blood supply to the heart is suddenly occluded, most often by a blood clot. A deficit of blood to the heart may grievously damage the heart muscle and can be life-threatening. The blockage is also the build-up of fat, cholesterol, and other substances, which form a plague in the coronary arteries.

Most of the heart attack is due to coronary artery disease. The modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors of heart failure include high blood pressure (hypertension), smoking, diabetes, lack of exercise, obesity, high blood cholesterol, poor diet, and excessive alcohol intake.

The term ‘heart attack’ also helps to know the difference between cardiac arrest vs. heart attack. A heart attack is responsible for 15% of mortality each year, among the vast majority of people is suffering from non-ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction than ST-segment myocardial infarction.

Also Read: Heart failure guidelines

The kinship between cardiac arrest vs. heart attack

Perhaps the banalest source of confusion is the connection between cardiac arrest vs. heart attack. Cardiac arrest is an electrical malfunction of the heart while a heart attack (which doctor call as myocardial infarction) is a circulation issue of the heart.

A cardiac arrest is sudden and can occur at any time with no prior signals. A heart attack, on the other hand, has symptoms accumulating over some time.

Practically, patients with a heart attack or a STEMI [who do not survive} die because they go into cardiac arrest. When the muscle does not get blood supply, it goes into a baleful electrical rhythm.

The symptoms: cardiac arrest vs. heart attack

Cardiac arrest symptoms include
  • Abnormal breathing
  • Sudden loss of consciousness
Symptoms of a heart attack include
  • Sudden severe compressive chest pain
  • Chest Heaviness
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Sweating
  • Pain radiated to arm or neck

Cardiac arrest vs. heart attack: which one is dangerous?

Heart attacks advance the risk for sudden cardiac arrest. Most heart attacks do not lead to flash cardiac arrest. But when sudden cardiac arrest manifests, a heart attack is a conjunct cause. Other heart circumstances may also disrupt the heart’s rhythm and lead to sudden cardiac arrest.

Causes of heart attack and cardiac arrest

Knowing the dissimilarity between cardiac arrest and heart attack, you must also learn the origins of cardiac arrest and heart attack. Cardiac arrests have several potential reasons. These include:

  • Ventricular fibrillation
  • Ventricular tachycardia
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Changes in the heart structure
  • Pacemaker failure
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Choking
  • Drowning
  • Electrocution
  • Hypothermia
  • The dramatic drop in blood pressure
  • Drug abuse
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Idiopathic

Prevention and prompt applicable treatment save lives

Though the functioning is different, the underlying causes and risk factors share lots of similarities between cardiac arrest vs. heart attack. Prevention-at least those aspects prevention within your control is all about maintaining the kinds of healthy lifestyle habits you learned as a child:

  • Eat well
  • Exercise well
  • Don’t smoke
  • Avoid excess consumption of alcohol

The most significant difference is how to save lives. For instant, using a defibrillator on an attentive heart attack victim is not supported, but for sudden cardiac arrest, rapid electrical treatment expressed by a defibrillator is the only effective treatment. Since so many enhanced people die from cardiac arrest than a heart attack, AED devices should be obtainable in all public gathering places and the homes of high-risk individuals and caretakers.


In summary, there is a difference between cardiac arrest vs. heart attack. A heart attack exists when the blood supply to a branch of the heart occluded and thus caused a portion of the heart muscle to drive to die, whereas a cardiac arrest occurs when there is the cessation of heartbeats.

Accede to the centers for disease control and prevention, someone in the united state has a heart attack every 40 seconds. That’s an estimated 7,90,000 Americans each year. Cardiac arrest causes an estimated 3,50,000 deaths each year in the united state according to the American heart association.

Dr Sanam shakya

Dr. Sanam Shakya is a licensed MBBS doctor working as a medical officer under the emergency department in Karnali Province Hospital, Surkhet, Nepal.Dr. Shakya's interests are intensive trauma care, emergency medicine, and internal fixation surgeries. He spends a considerable amount of time inpatient''s healthcare.

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