Heart Attack And Sudden Cardiac Arrest: What Is The Difference?

Date April 18, 2018 11:21

We all heard the terms “heart attack” and “cardiac arrest,” and many believe that these terms mean the same pathological condition. However, there’s a huge difference. Of course, in both cases, the heart muscle suffers and immediate medical help is required. But this is the point, the similarities between the two conditions come to an end. Let's find out how to properly differentiate these two states and what to do if such situation occurs.

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What is a heart attack?

A heart attack (myocardial infarction) is a condition where blood flow decreases or stops to a part of the heart. It may happen due to a blockage of blood vessels, which harms the part of the muscle that no longer gets oxygen from the blood. If the blockage is not removed within a few hours, the part of the heart muscle will begin to die.

Causes of a heart attack

The researchers state that the following risk factors may lead to heart attacks in 90% of all cases:

  • smoking;
  • stress;
  • increased cholesterol in the blood;
  • obesity (for example, alimentary);
  • diabetes;
  • low level of physical activity (lack of exercise);
  • high blood pressure.

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Cardiologists identify 8 most characteristic symptoms of a heart attack:

  • pain in the chest or abdomen;
  • chest tightness;
  • labored breathing;
  • pain in the lower jaw, scapula or shoulder;
  • dizziness;
  • increasing rate of the heartbeat;
  • sweating;
  • loss of consciousness.

If you assume someone’s having a heart attack, you should immediately call an ambulance. Remember that every minute is important! The sooner a person is taken to a medical institution, the higher his chances for a full recovery are. The patient should undergo electrocardiography and echocardiography, take blood tests. Only specialists can prescribe the necessary treatment.


What is a sudden cardiac arrest?

Cardiac arrest is a sudden electrical malfunction in the heart which leads to irregular heartbeat, resulting in the loss of blood flow. Due to impaired pump function of the heart, one’s brain, lungs, kidneys and other organs stop receiving blood. Blood pressure drops almost instantly, and collapse can lead to the death of a person in just a few minutes.

The main causes of cardiac arrest:

  • coronary artery disease;
  • heart attack;
  • cardiomyopathy;
  • congenital heart diseases.

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The most characteristic symptoms of cardiac arrest are:

  • dizziness;
  • loss of consciousness;
  • sudden drop in blood pressure;
  • pulse deficit;
  • absence of respiration (apnea);
  • cyanosis of the face.

It is necessary to call an ambulance and immediately begin performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). If there is an automatic external defibrillator, you need to use it as soon as possible. A sudden cardiac arrest can lead to death in a few minutes if a person doesn’t receive immediate medical help.


Try to avoid risk factors to stay healthy. Also, consider learning how to perform CPR, as it might save someone's life one day. Take care!

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The material in this article is for informational purposes only. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not recommend that the reader rely fully on the information provided above.