Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest: How Are They Different?

Heart attack and cardiac arrest are sometimes used interchangeably, but these conditions are not the same. They can both be life-threating and may be prevented through the management of certain risk factors. However, the risk factors for cardiac arrest can differ greatly from those for heart attack. Here is a closer look at the differences between these two serious conditions that require emergency care .

Heart & Stethoscope

What Happens?
A heart attack takes place when a blockage in the arteries prevents blood from flowing to part of the heart. Cardiac arrest—the sudden electrical malfunction of the heart that causes it to stop beating—can occur during a heart attack, but it may also occur suddenly due to the presence of an arrhythmia. Heart attack is considered a circulatory problem while cardiac arrest is an electrical problem.

Who is at Risk?
Hereditary risk factors may be at play for both conditions, but there are also some more controllable risk factors. Heart attack may be caused by lifestyle choices such as physical inactivity, poor diet, and cigarette smoking. Cardiac arrest is often related to arrhythmias, which alter the way the heart beats. With proper care from your physician, you can learn to live with an arrhythmia while lowering your chances of suffering cardiac arrest. Recreational drug use may also put you at risk for cardiac arrest, because certain drugs can cause your heart to beat very rapidly and without proper coordination.

What Treatment is Used?
Cardiac arrest is immediately treated with a defibrillator, which sends electrical pulses through the heart to restart the pulse. Heart attack treatment involves the reopening of the arteries to restore blood flow as soon as possible. In both cases, you should call 9-1-1 immediately.

The Accredited Chest Pain Center at Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center can provide the necessary care when sudden cardiac conditions arise. To learn more about our life-saving emergency care, visit our website or call our Consult-A-Nurse healthcare referral line at (805) 497-2727.

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