Heart Attack vs. Cardiac Arrest: What’s The Difference?

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You’ve heard the two terms before: heart attack and cardiac arrest. In fact, you probably use these two terms interchangeably when referring to heart problems. But do you know that a heart attack and a cardiac arrest are actually different? Let’s delve into the matters of the heart and take a look at heart attack vs. cardiac arrest, and what’s the difference.

Heart Attack

A heart attack occurs when coronary arteries get blocked. Coronary arteries are those which supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart, and blockages disrupt the blood flow. If the blockage isn’t resolved quickly, it can cause parts of the heart muscle to die. But does the heart totally stop beating? No. Even though blood supply is disrupted, the heart still pumps. A heart attack’s primary cause is coronary heart disease (CHD), where coronary arteries get blocked due to build-up of fatty deposits. A heart attack can occur suddenly, but it usually builds in intensity over time, with accompanying symptoms. Remember that each person is different and may display different symptoms.

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  • Crushing chest pain/tightness in the middle of the chest
  • Spreading of pain to other body parts, most commonly arms, jaw, neck, back and abdomen
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing/wheezing
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling or being sick
  • Palpitations (Noticeable heartbeats)

Cardiac Arrest

On the other hand, a cardiac arrest is when the heart stops beating as a whole. It is triggered by an electrical malfunction in the heart that leads to irregular heartbeats, or arrhythmia. As it is “triggered”, a cardiac arrest happens suddenly and dramatically. A person having a cardiac arrest can lose their consciousness almost immediately, and it can be fatal within minutes if no help is given. There are several causes that may lead to a cardiac arrest such as being in different medical conditions, including having a heart attack. If left untreated, a heart attack causes part of the heart muscle to die, and this can lead to cardiac arrest.

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  • Sudden loss of consciousness/responsiveness
  • No breathing/gasping ineffectively
  • No pulse

Taking Care Of Your Heart

Of course, to prevent from heart attacks or cardiac arrests, one way is to keep your heart healthy. The best way to a healthy heart is a healthy lifestyle, so you can make some small changes to your lifestyle as starting steps. Exercise regularly, and eat less salt. Whenever possible, cut down on sugar too. Instead of unhealthy fats, replace them with healthy fats such as avocados and fatty fish. Also remember to eat a fibre-rich diet and drink plenty of water. Last but not least, remember to de-stress yourself regularly and keep tabs on your mental health. To a healthy heart!

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