Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest: Same Thing?
Several terms are commonly used to describe heart attacks; none of them are particularly helpful. Some, such as the grim-sounding “widow-maker,” can even cause unnecessary stress and confusion. While there is a need for quick and straightforward terminology, we realize the anxiety such terms may create. Here, we discuss the details that separate a heart attack from cardiac arrest, and what you need to know as you go about protecting your heart health.
The heart is an amazing electrical system with a fair amount of plumbing in the form of chambers, vessels, and arteries. A heart attack, also referred to as myocardial infarction (MI), is characterized by muscle-damage resultant from insufficient blood flow to one or more areas of the heart. We could call this a plumbing problem. Usually, the muscle damage that occurs stems from arterial blockage. Cardiac arteries may become clogged with fatty plaque that eventually rupture, causing a heart attack.
Cardiac arrest results from a malfunction in the heart’s electrical system. This disruption in electrical activity could cause heart rate to increase and become erratic. In some cases, the heart stops beating altogether. In the instance of cardiac arrest, a person may go from having difficulty breathing to not breathing to becoming unresponsive in a matter of seconds.
Here’s what you need to know. While cardiac arrest may occur as a result of an initial heart attack, this is not the norm. Most heart attacks do not cause the heart’s electrical currents to change. This is more likely to happen because a clot has formed in the lungs or due to heart failure. Other reasons for cardiac arrest include drug overdose, traumatic chest injury, and a severe imbalance of minerals in the blood, such as magnesium and potassium.
Differences Aside, You Need to Know What to Do for Both
Cardiac arrest is a serious problem. In most instances, a person who suffers a heart attack will live through their health crisis. It is important to know what to do in the event of either.
If symptoms of either heart attack or cardiac arrest develop, call 911 immediately if possible. Symptoms include:
- Chest pain, pressure, or a squeezing sensation.
- Shortness of breath.
- Dizziness or lightheadedness.
- Unusual fatigue.
- Sudden nausea or vomiting.
- Pain or other sensations in the jaw, neck, back, arm, or stomach.
Know your cardiac risks. Schedule a comprehensive health examination with your primary care physician. If you have questions regarding symptoms or cardiac testing, call Premier Cardiology Consultants at 516-437-5600.
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