The Difference Between Cardiac Arrest and Heart Attack

Many people believe a heart attack is a form of cardiac arrest. In reality, the two are quite different. The mobile cardiac monitor specialists at Medicomp present a description of both along with symptoms you need to report to your cardiologist.

Heart Attack

The heart is a muscle, just like the muscles in your arms and legs. The difference is you have no control over your heart muscle; it is involuntary. Your heart needs oxygen in order to beat, and that oxygen is found in the blood as it courses through your blood vessels. As the blood vessels come in contact with the heart, they become smaller and smaller. If you have a blood clot, which is a collection of red blood cells that have clumped together, they cannot pass through these tiny blood vessels. A blockage in the blood vessels that feed the heart will cause the cells in that area to become oxygen deprived, and they die. If the blood vessel feeds a large amount of heart tissue, the damage to the heart can be extreme. Even though the blood supply is diminished during a heart attack, the heart continues to beat.

Symptoms of a heart attack generally include chest pain or tightness that begins near the center of the chest and does not stop when you rest. This pain radiates to other areas after a number of minutes, spreading to your arms, neck, jaw, back, and abdomen. You may also experience shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing, and nausea. It may feel like your heart is beating noticeably (palpitations), and you may feel weak, dizzy, and anxious.

Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac arrest differs from a heart attack because the heart will physically stop beating during cardiac arrest. Because your heart has stopped beating, a major symptom of cardiac arrest is no pulse. Your breathing will also stop, and you may lose consciousness and responsiveness. When the heart stops beating, oxygen is no longer pumped through the body. The body’s organs cannot function without oxygen, and tissue damage quickly begins.

Before cardiac arrest, you may experience shortness of breath even if you stop all activity, chest pain, weakness, dizziness, nausea, and palpitations. If any combination of these symptoms occurs and does not disappear within a few minutes, call 911.

Cardiac Arrest and Heart Attack Causes

Cardiac arrest can be caused by a heart attack if enough muscle of the heart is affected, and the heart is no longer able to beat. Cardiac arrest can also be caused by coronary heart disease, pacemaker failure, ventricular fibrillation or tachycardia, respiratory arrest including choking or drowning, drug abuse including intense alcohol consumption, or a sudden and significant decrease in blood pressure. Of these factors, the leading cause of cardiac arrest is a heart attack.

A heart attack, on the other hand, has one main cause – coronary heart disease. Coronary heart disease – also called coronary artery disease – is caused by the buildup of deposits inside the coronary arteries that feed the heart. These plaque deposits may occur in other areas of the body, but when they affect the heart, the plaques are known as atherosclerosis. The plaques restrict blood flow, which can cause many symptoms of a heart attack. The plaques can also break free and clog the artery as it becomes smaller in diameter.

You are more likely to experience coronary heart disease if you smoke, eat an unhealthy diet, have existing high blood pressure or diabetes, if you are overweight or do not exercise frequently, if you are an older male, or if you have a family history of heart disease.

During a heart attack, one portion of the heart may stop beating if not enough oxygen remains to keep the cells working properly. In contrast, cardiac arrest causes the entire heart as a whole to stop. Wearing a mobile cardiac monitor from Medicomp can record any arrhythmias and immediately send those results to a trained specialist. Contact Medicomp today at 800-23-HEART (800-234-3278) to speak with one of our representatives, and read our blog page for information on how you can live a heart healthy life.

    *This form is intended for sales inquiries/information only. Do not include any patient health information (PHI) with your submission.