What is the difference between Cardiac Arrest and Heart Attack?

Cardiac Arrest and Heart Attack are two different conditions of the heart. We have always thought of them to be similar. Haven’t we? But no. Although both of them affect the same organ, they have different symptoms, causes, and treatments. A heart attack is a pumping problem whereas a cardiac arrest is an electric problem. Having said that,  a heart attack can be a cause of cardiac arrest. To understand this we need to know what heart attacks and cardiac arrests are and what causes them.

Cardiac arrest and Heart attack:

Cardiac arrests happen when the heart stops or starts beating abruptly. This freezes the blood-pumping action of the heart to brain, lungs and other organs. Without blood circulation, cardiac arrest can be fatal in seconds and the patient can lose his pulse and become unconscious.

A heart attack is caused by a blockage in coronary arteries. Coronary arteries are responsible for the oxygen-rich blood flow into the heart. When an artery gets blocked, it won’t reopen quickly. The blood flow to that area where this artery pumps blood gets affected and that area starts dying slowly. Unlike cardiac arrest, heart attack won’t stop the heartbeats. But heart attacks can be deadly if not taken care of on time.


Both cardiac arrest and heart attack exhibit different symptoms. The early symptoms of cardiac arrest include breathing issues, dizziness, weakness, chest pain and sometimes nausea. Within a few seconds of cardiac arrest, a person will lose his breath and become unresponsive and unconscious. The person will also be left with no pulse.

The early symptoms of heart attack are a little bit different from that of a cardiac arrest. The person might start experiencing anxiety, lightheadedness, sickness, weakness and a pain in the chest way before a heart attack strikes the person. During a heart attack, the person will start coughing and wheezing and will experience severe chest pain. The person will also start sweating a lot than usual.

Causes of Cardiac Arrest and Heart Attack:

Cardiac arrests occur due to many causes like excessive alcohol consumption, electrocution, drop in blood pressure, drug usage, among other causes. Arrhythmia(abnormal heart rhythm), coronary heart disease, and heart attacks can also lead to cardiac arrest.

A heart attack is usually more common in smokers, people who are obese or old or have high blood pressure, diabetes. People who eat unhealthy food and never exercise and people with a family history of heart disease also are at a high risk of suffering from a heart attack. Another most common cause of heart attack is coronary heart disease, a condition in which coronary arteries are blocked with fatty deposits. People with high cholesterol are more susceptible to this problem.

Dealing with Cardiac arrest and Heart attack:

A person suffering from a cardiac arrest has a high chance of survival only with immediate medical intervention. Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation(CPR) must be performed immediately. CPR must be continued until the person receives professional medical service. Automated External Defibrillator(AED), a device that sends an electric shock to the heart to restore the beating must be used.

On the other hand, those suffering from a heart attack exhibit symptoms well before the actual attack. If you notice any symptoms rush to a hospital at the earliest. Always be on a sharp lookout if there already exists a family history of heart illness. If chest pain occurs, especially one that’s radiating through your arms or jaw, you must consult a doctor.

How to stop Cardiac arrest and Heart attack?

Heart diseases can be kept in control to an extent with regular exercise. One must cut down smoking, emotional stress, obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, and pressure, to decrease the chances of heart diseases. However, some causes like increasing age or family history are beyond the control.

It is essential to understand the difference between a cardiac arrest and a heart attack to deal with the same. Although there are causes out of hand for cardiac arrest and heart attack, maintaining a healthy life can minimize the risk to a very big extent. Keep yourself healthy and always keep your heart checked.

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