Heart Attack vs. Cardiac Arrest: What’s the difference?

Although most people think that heart attack and cardiac arrest mean the same thing, there is a significant difference between the two conditions. Some people even use the terms interchangeably, but the truth is that they differ a lot. Here is a simple explanation for heart attack and cardiac arrest.

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This is an electrical problem within the body. It occurs when the heart unexpectedly stops beating. An electrical fault in the heart causes an irregular heartbeat. The irregular heartbeat disrupts the way the heart pumps blood. This anomaly causes the heart to be unable to pump blood to the lungs, brain and other organs.


What happens during a cardiac arrest?


A patient becomes unresponsive after an individual suffers from a cardiac arrest, and find it very hard to breathe. It could turn fatal in just minutes if the condition is not treated fast enough.


To save a life, it’s important that the person receives adequate first aid and immediate attention. The patient needs to be given a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) before being rushed to a hospital.


The majority of cardiac arrest cases are linked to heart disease. In fact, when someone suffers from a cardiac arrest, it’s often due to a heart attack.


Cardiac arrest could also be:


• Brought about by secondary conditions, including thickened muscle, valve problems or arrhythmia.
• Secondary to stroke




A heart attack is essentially a circulation problem. A heart attack occurs when a blocked artery stops blood rich in oxygen from entering part of the heart. In case the blocked artery isn’t reopened fast, the parts supplied by this artery begin to die.


What happens during a heart attack?


Heart attack symptoms begin mildly and could go on for hours, days or even weeks before the attack. Unlike sudden cardiac arrest, the heart doesn’t stop beating in the event of a heart attack. However, the longer it takes before treatment, the greater the damage will be. A patient may even experience immediate discomfort in the upper body and chest. Symptoms of heart attack include cold sweats, shortness of breath and nausea or vomiting. There is a slight difference in terms of symptoms of heart attack to women, and these include jaw or back pain, nausea, and shortness of breath.


What should you do?


It’s important to call for an ambulance right away if you suspect that you or another person is having a heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction. The patient needs to lie or sit down as they wait for help to come. If you are the one who has been affected, don’t drive yourself to a medical facility.
Immediate action is important if you suspect that someone has suffered from cardiac arrest. Survival chances decrease by 10 percent every minute that passes without treatment. You aren’t likely to survive if there is no treatment within 10 minutes.




Contrary to what many people think, a heart attack is not the same as a cardiac arrest. A heart attack occurs when there is an obstruction to the artery that supplies heart muscles, which means that these areas don’t receive the nutrients they usually get and may die off as a result. On the other hand, a cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops beating all of a sudden. ACLS Medical Institute, teaches that one thing they have in common though is that both of them are deadly and require IMMEDIATE medical attention.