The terms” heart attack” and cardiac arrest” are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. While it’s true that having a heart attack may cause cardiac arrest, many times these occurrences happen independently of each other.
One way to explain the difference is that one is a plumbing problem, while the other is an electrical problem.
Heart attack is a network of blood vessels called coronary arteries surround the heart and supply it with oxygen-rich blood.
The heart needs this oxygen to function. According to preventive cardiologist Viviana Navas MD, A heart attack occurs when a coronary artery becomes blocked, which stops the flow of blood to the heart. All or part of the heart muscle becomes cut off from its oxygen supply.
Dr. Navas further explained that less frequently, a heart attack also can occur by a spasm of a coronary artery. During coronary spasm, the coronary arteries constrict on and off, which causes a lack of blood supply to the heart. A coronary spasm may occur at rest and can even happen in people without significant coronary artery disease.
If coronary artery spasm occurs for a long period of time, a heart attack can occur.
A heart attack damages your heart because of the compromise in blood flow stemming from a blocked or spasming blood vessel, Dr. Navas says.
Signs and symptoms of heart attack
Preventive cardiologist, Haitham Ahmed, MD, MPH has listed some common symptoms of a heart attack.
Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen.
Feelings of chest tightness.
Pain that radiates to the jaw or arm.
Loss of consciousness.
Up to a third of heart attack patients do not experience chest pain with heart attacks, Dr. Ahmed says.
Dr. Navas said, Women, in particular, are more likely to have atypical symptoms.
Symptoms women experience may include:
Pain that radiates to the arm.
Trouble breathing without chest pain.
Loss of consciousness.
Navas says “It’s important to note that just like no two people are the same, no two heart attacks are the same.”
“Even for someone who has already had a heart attack, symptoms of another attack may sometimes be very different.”
Cardiac arrest: What happens
When you suffer cardiac arrest, your heart stops working properly because of its electrical system malfunctions. The heart beats dangerously fast. The heart’s two large chambers may flutter or quiver and blood is not delivered throughout the body. This leads to a rapid drop in blood pressure and collapse of the circulatory system, Dr. Navas says.
In the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, the greatest concern is that blood flow to the brain is reduced so drastically that a person will lose consciousness, Dr. Ahmed says. Death follows unless emergency treatment is begun immediately.
When a heart attacks damages or weakens a significant amount of heart muscle, this sometimes leads to electrical disturbances that put the heart more at risk for cardiac arrest, Dr. Ahmed says.
Signs and symptoms of cardiac arrest
Symptoms of cardiac arrest may include:
Blue discoloration of the face.
“Some people experiencing cardiac arrest may feel their heart racing or they may feel dizzy,” Dr. Ahmed says. However, more than half of those who undergo cardiac arrest experience no symptoms.
Source: Cleveland Clinic