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

Jun 07, 2023
Cardiac Arrest vs. Heart Attack: What’s the Difference?
Heart ailments are always concerning, given the critical nature of the heart’s job in your life, and a wide range of often-unrelated heart issues can affect you. Cardiac arrest and heart attack, for instance, are not the same problem. 

Thinking that cardiac arrest is the medical term for a heart attack is understandable, since both are serious and potentially life-threatening. However, they’re two distinct events that present different challenges. 

There’s also overlap as well. Cardiac arrest is often caused by a heart attack, but heart attacks don’t always lead to cardiac arrest. 

Whenever you’re concerned with your heart and its performance, visit Advanced Vascular Cardiac & Veins in Miami, Florida. 

Dr. Enrique Hernandez is a member of the new breed of interventional cardiologist, a leader in the field who provides his patients with the most up-to-date treatments and procedures, often using catheter-based techniques to help your heart perform better. 

Understanding the difference between cardiac arrest and heart attack requires some background information, which we’ve collected for you here today so you can distinguish between them. 

Heart attack

Heart attacks occur when blood cannot reach sections of the heart. It’s usually due to plaque blockages in an artery that normally supplies blood to heart tissue. Without oxygenated blood, heart tissue dies, so prompt treatment is key to recovery. 

However, heart attacks are sometimes subtle or symptom-free. It’s possible to have a heart attack without knowing. Other times, heart attacks can be serious and sudden. Symptoms of a heart attack are often different for women than they are for men, and the signs can vary between members of the same gender. 

The medical term for heart attack is myocardial infarction. Since there’s such a range of symptoms and effects, heart attacks aren’t always fatal. They are medical emergencies, however, so seek treatment as soon as possible if you suspect a heart attack is underway. 

Cardiac arrest

Where heart attacks are physical problems that compare to plumbing blockages, cardiac arrest is an electrical issue. 

The signals that usually control the beating of your heart suffer a disruption, causing your heart to stop working in a coordinated way, requiring a restart as soon as possible, since your vital organs begin to fail soon after the fresh supply of blood stops. 

Cardiac arrest isn’t always caused by heart disease or even a heart condition. It could be brought on by some other medical emergency. 

Studies show that over half of patients experiencing sudden cardiac arrest have symptoms or warning signs up to a month before their cardiac event. The most common of these is chest pain, and most of these patients experience the symptoms again within 24 hours of the event. 

Apart from those foreshadowing symptoms, cardiac arrest typically starts suddenly and without warning. You may lose consciousness before you’re aware of a problem. 

Heart attacks increase your risk of suffering from cardiac arrest, and it’s possible for a heart attack to trigger cardiac arrest. Other heart conditions, like heart failure, cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, and ventricular fibrillation, can trigger cardiac arrest. 

If you’re older and you’ve experienced even mild chest pain, consider an evaluation with Advanced Vascular Cardiac & Vein. We can assess your condition and, if needed, offer preventive treatment to reduce your risk of a cardiac event. Request your appointment by phone or online today.