Cardiac Arrest Vs. Heart Attack: What you need to know

The heart is a vital organ that pumps blood to the entire body. Due to its essential function, a disease of the heart is a potential cause of death of its victim. Studies show that cardiovascular diseases such as cardiac arrest and heart attack are the leading cause of death globally.

Cardiac arrest and heart attacks are common heart conditions

Cardiac arrest and heart attack, although common, are often erroneously used interchangeably. In what way are they different? How are they related? What interventions can be offered for cardiac arrest and heart attack?

These questions will be answered as you read further.

What is cardiac arrest?

Cardiac arrest is an electrical heart problem characterized by irregular heartbeat and unexpected stoppage of the heartbeat. Once the heart stops beating, other body parts and organs do not receive blood.

Cardiac arrest is an electrical heart condition

What are the risk factors for cardiac arrest?

They include:

  • Heart failure – A medical condition in which the heart cannot pump blood adequately.
  • Previous heart attack
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Family history of sudden cardiac arrest

What are the symptoms of cardiac arrest?

The following symptoms are seen in individuals who suffer cardiac arrest:

  • Collapse
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Absent breathing
  • Absent pulse

What should a bystander do?

If you happen to be close by when someone suffers a cardiac arrest, you should do the following to help the victim:

  • Arrange transportation to the nearest hospital.
  • Begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
  • Use an automated external defibrillator (AED), if one is nearby.

It is important to note that the victim can die within minutes if they do not receive any medical intervention.

What is a heart attack?

A heart attack is a circulatory heart problem that occurs due to obstruction of blood flow to the heart. It is also known as myocardial infarction (MI).

Heart attack is a circulatory heart condition

When an artery (a blood vessel that carries oxygen-rich blood) that supplies a section of the heart is blocked, that part of the heart begins to die gradually. This implies that the longer the victim goes without treatment, the greater the damage.

What are the risk factors for heart attack?

They include:

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Family history of a heart attack
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Obesity
  • Smoking

What are the symptoms of a heart attack?

Common symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness

What should a bystander do?

If you happen to be close by when someone suffers a cardiac arrest, you should do the following to help the victim:

  • Arrange transportation to the nearest hospital.
  • Begin CPR if the victim is unconscious.
  • Use an AED if the victim is unconscious.

What is the link between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest?

Although different, a relationship exists between heart attacks and cardiac arrests. Most heart attacks do not lead to cardiac arrest. However, when cardiac arrest occurs, a heart attack is a common and potential cause.

A word from HealthFacts to you

Heart attack and cardiac arrest are leading causes of morbidity and mortality, especially in low- and middle-income countries like Nigeria. It is crucial to identify the risk factors associated with these heart conditions and to manage them appropriately. Regular medical checkups and adherence to prescribed medications can ensure adequate management.

Until next time, stay informed and stay healthy!


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