Cardiac arrest and heart attacks are both potentially fatal conditions that require immediate medical attention. However, they have different causes and require varying medical treatments. In any case, if you are with someone who experiences cardiac arrest or a heart attack, you should call 911 immediately.
People often mistakenly use cardiac arrest and heart attack interchangeably. However, neurological miscommunications between the brain and the heart cause cardiac arrests, while a blockage in an artery that carries oxygen-enriched blood to the heart causes heart attacks. Understanding these differences can help coordinate how you help someone who experiences either.
Because people often confuse cardiac arrests and heart attacks, CPR/AED online certifications can better coordinate civilian emergency response skills. 350,000 people die from cardiac arrest every year, and 800,000 people die every year from heart attacks. Educating the population on approaching these medical emergencies puts you in a better position to save lives.
This blog uncovers the difference between cardiac arrest and heart attacks. It discusses both conditions’ causes, symptoms, and treatments while directing civilians to certifications they can obtain to better help in cardiac arrest or heart attack emergencies.
What Are Heart Attacks?
Heart attacks occur when a blocked artery stops blood from entering the heart. If the blockage continues without treatment, that portion of the heart begins to die. The longer a person’s artery remains blocked, the greater the damage becomes.
Heart attack symptoms can either be immediate and intense, or more gradual, and progress for hours, days, or weeks before culminating in a heart attack. Heart attack symptoms can also occur differently in women than in men.
The material that blocks arteries is generally cholesterol or fat that creates plaque within the arteries.
What Are the Symptoms of a Heart Attack?
Heart attack symptoms can vary from person to person, but chest tightness or pain is most common. This pain can either be mild and progress to severe or be sudden and intense.
Other common symptoms include:
- Pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing sensation in the chest or shoulder spreading to the neck, jaw, or back.
- Shortness of breath
- Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness
- Nausea, indigestion, heartburn, or abdominal pain
What Is Cardiac Arrest?
Sudden cardiac arrest is a condition where the heart suddenly stops beating. It can cause death within minutes of occurring if not treated. Understanding sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) requires a rudimentary knowledge of how electrical impulses control the heart’s rhythm.
Cardiac arrest occurs when something interferes with the natural rhythm of the heart and creates arrhythmias. These arrhythmias cause the heart to beat irregularly, making it beat too fast, too slow, or to stop completely.
Cardiac Arrest Causes
Ventricular fibrillation (v-fib), a type of arrhythmia, causes most sudden cardiac arrests. In v-fib cases, the heart’s ventricles (heart’s lower chambers) beat abnormally, rapidly spasming. SCA can also occur when the heart’s electrical signals become very slow or stop. If the heart muscles don’t respond to these electrical signals, the heart stops beating.
Other health conditions can also cause SCA, including ischemic heart disease, severe physical stress, inherited disorders, or structural changes in the heart. Other heart conditions can also disrupt heart rhythms, such as thickened heart tissue, heart failure, arrhythmias, and long Q-T syndrome.
How Do Heart Attacks and Cardiac Arrest?
Cardiac arrests and heart attacks are inextricably linked because SCAs can occur during or after a heart attack. Because there is a blockage in an artery during a heart attack, and the heart isn’t getting enough blood, it can cause v-fib and SCA.
The lack of blood flow during a heart attack causes irregular heartbeats, which can cause the heart to spasm, resulting in abnormal electrical signals and causing the heart to stop.
What Should I Do If Someone Has a Heart Attack?
The first thing you should do if you’re with someone who is having a heart attack is to call an ambulance. You should never ignore the symptoms of a heart attack and if you don’t have access to emergency medical services, drive whoever is having a heart attack to the hospital.
After calling the ambulance, you should give whoever is having the heart attack aspirin. Aspirin is a blood thinner that prevents the blood from coagulating. It helps the patient’s blood flow easier until medical assistance arrives.
If the patient was prescribed nitroglycerin, they should take it as directed. However, if they weren’t prescribed nitroglycerin, they shouldn’t take it because it can cause adverse medical reactions.
If the patient loses consciousness and medical professionals have not arrived, you should perform CPR. If you are in a location with an AED, you should use it immediately.
How to Respond If You Are With a Cardiac Arrest Patient
If you are with someone in cardiac arrest, perform the following procedures:
- Call 911 immediately.
- Check for breathing (if the patient does not breathe within ten seconds, begin chest compressions).
- Perform 30 chest compressions. Your chest compressions must be 2 in deep to achieve their desired results.
- Perform the ABC method:
- Airway: open the victim’s airway
- Breathing: Give two breaths
- Continue: Repeat the process starting at 30 chest compressions.
Ways to Prepare Yourself for Cardiac Arrest Emergencies
The American Heart Association recommends civilians perform CPR even if they haven’t been certified. However, a study in the NCBI found that over half the people who perform CPR incorrectly reflect the need for more CPR/AED trained laypeople.
Conclusion: Cardiac Arrest and Heart Attacks Are Linked, But They have Different Training Protocols
Cardiac arrest and heart attacks are not the same conditions, and they require different medical treatments. However, heart attacks can cause cardiac arrest, and it’s essential to be aware of the various indicators for each.
If a person is suffering from a heart attack, but they click here are still conscious, you should not perform CPR. In both situations, the first step you should complete is calling 911 to get emergency medical assistance from healthcare professionals.