What is the Difference Between a Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest?


What is the Difference Between a Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest?

Know the difference between cardiac arrest and heart attack.

People are often confused between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest. With growing number cases of heart attacks in younger age groups, there is a lot of confusion regarding this.

According to Mayo Clinic, sudden cardiac arrest is the abrupt loss of heart function, breathing and consciousness.

Sudden cardiac arrest isn't the same as a heart attack, when blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked. However, a heart attack can sometimes trigger an electrical disturbance that leads to sudden cardiac arrest.

Let's understand the difference between the two in detail so that we can act accordingly.

Heart Attack vs Cardiac Arrest
Heart is a muscle and like other muscles require a rich supply of blood and oxygen. The coronary arteries are responsible for the supply of oxygen and blood to the heart. When these arteries get blocked due to a blot clot or other reasons, the muscles of the heart begin to get damaged and as a result die slowly. It takes time to get rid of the blockage and it may result in death of the person.

In cardiac arrest, the person becomes unconscious, finds it difficult to breathe and heart stops to function suddenly. This is caused due to the electrical disturbances which disrupts the pumping of heart and stops the flow of blood to other organs.

Heart Attack vs Cardiac Arrest: Symptoms
Symptoms of a heart attack include:

Tightness in the chest

Spread of pain or tightness from chest to arms, neck, head, jaws, etc.


Difficulty in breathing

Feeling of being sick





Episodes of sweating

Increased Heart Palpitations

Symptoms of a cardiac arrest may include:

Absence of pulse rate

Sudden Collapse


Short of breath


Fast breathing

Heart Pounding

Feeling of fainting


Heart Attack vs Cardiac Arrest: Causes
A heart attack may occur when the coronary arteries in the heart get blocked due to fat deposits, cholesterol, plaque particles, narrowed down arteries. These are results of coronary artery disease.

Sometimes, the cholesterol plaques rupture and spill the particles inside them which forms a blood clot at the place of the rupture. If the blood clot is large, it may block the flow of blood and oxygen into the heart making it starve for oxygen and nutrients.

A partial blockage is known as non-ST elevation myocardial infarction and when the arteries are fully blocked, it is known as ST elevation myocardial infarction.

Causes of a cardiac arrest may include:

Coronary artery disease

Heart attack may also lead to cardiac arrest

Stretching of the heart's muscles, also known as enlarged heart

Leaking or narrowing of the heart valves, valvular heart diseases

Defect in heart since birth, congenital heart disease

Electrical problems of the heart


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