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Cardiac Arrest vs. Heart Attack: Know the Key Differences & Signs

Heart Attack

The circulatory system’s blood arteries are used by the heart, a muscular organ, to pump blood. The pumped blood carries nutrients and oxygen to the body while carrying metabolic waste such as carbon dioxide to the lungs. 

Cardiovascular diseases are the most common cause of death worldwide as of 2008, accounting for 30% of deaths (including cardiac arrest and heart attack). Circulation issues in the body that obstruct blood flow to the heart are what lead to a heart attack. A cardiac arrest is an electrical systemic failure of the heart.

It can be easy to forget the differences between a cardiac arrest and a heart attack, but the most important thing to remember is that both are serious, life-threatening conditions. If you believe you or someone you know is suffering from either illness, get medical attention right away. A healthcare team and doctor can quickly assess your symptoms and begin treatment. Your recovery and outlook will depend on how quickly you can get to a healthcare professional or doctor.

What is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack happens when a clogged artery stops oxygen-rich blood from getting to a particular area of the heart. The area of the heart ordinarily supplied by the blocked artery starts to perish if it is not rapidly unblocked. Damage increases with time and duration of non-treatment.

What is a Cardiac Arrest?

Sudden cardiac arrest is caused abruptly and frequently without notice. When the heart suffers from an electrical problem, it results in an Arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat. With its pumping action disrupted, the heart can not pump blood to the lungs, brain and other organs. When this occurs, a person has no pulse and loses consciousness. If the person doesn’t get help, they’ll die in a matter of minutes. 

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

A heart attack, which is often referred to as a myocardial infarction, happens when blood that usually flows to the heart is cut off or blocked. Without enough oxygen-rich blood flowing to the heart, one of the body’s most vital organs may suffer injury, and the heart muscle may start to deteriorate. 

On the other hand, abrupt cardiac death refers to a cardiac arrest. The word “arrest” means to bring to a halt or stop. The heart stops beating during cardiac arrest, which is a very dangerous medical condition. Cardiac arrest can cause disability or near-immediate death. 

What Are the Symptoms of a Heart Attack?

Although acute chest pain is a common sign of a heart attack, it can also start gradually with moderate discomfort that comes and goes over many hours. Symptoms of a heart attack can vary, and if you have had one heart attack, your symptoms might be different if you experience another one.

Symptoms can also vary between females and males, but for both sexes, the most common symptom of a heart attack is chest pain. However, women are somewhat more likely than men to experience other symptoms, particularly jaw or back pain, vomiting, nausea and shortness of breath. 

What Are the Symptoms of a Cardiac Arrest?

Cardiac arrests can often happen to people who did not know they had a heart problem. A person experiencing cardiac arrest might lose consciousness and collapse. They might experience difficulty breathing or stop breathing. 

What Are the Reasons for a Heart Attack?

Heart attacks are normally caused by coronary heart disease, which starves your heart of oxygen. Most of the time, people know they are at risk of a heart attack because they are being treated for heart disease. 

The risk factors for a heart attack can include:

What Are the Reasons for a Cardiac Arrest?

Certain health factors and heart conditions can increase your risk of cardiac arrest, including coronary heart disease. Other factors that are not always known could also put you at risk such as:

  • substance misuse
  • a previous heart attack
  • family history of heart disease
  • smoking
  • electrical impulse problems
  • congenital (hereditary) disease
  • irregularly shaped heart valves
  • an enlarged heart

What is the Diagnosis of a Heart Attack?

By doing a physical examination and prescribing an electrocardiogram to examine the electrical activity of your heart, doctors can determine whether you are having a heart attack.

A doctor might order a cardiac catheterization or an echocardiogram to determine the vitality and strength of your heart. It is also common to have a sample of your blood taken to check for signs of heart muscle damage.

What is the Diagnosis for Cardiac Arrest?

A cardiac arrest means your heart has stopped. Without immediate resuscitation, it is fatal. 

If a doctor is successful at restarting your heart and getting the blood flowing again, they will then perform diagnostic tests to determine the cause of your cardiac arrest. These tests might include a chest X-ray, blood tests and an echocardiogram to look for other signs of disease in your heart.

What is the Treatment for a Heart Attack?

If you have had a heart attack, a doctor might recommend any number of procedures depending on the severity of the emergency to prevent another heart attack, help relieve pain, or both. 

Some of these treatments or procedures can include:

  • in some cases, a heart transplant
  • pacemaker insertion
  • heart valve surgery
  • heart bypass surgery
  • angioplasty
  • a stent

It is also common for doctors to prescribe medications, such as beta-blockers and pain relievers, to help prevent another heart attack or to help with recovery. 

What is the Treatment for Cardiac Arrest?

Treatment for cardiac arrest nearly always starts with a defibrillator or CPR to get the heart started again. A doctor will probably begin one or more therapies after someone has survived a cardiac arrest to help reduce the likelihood of it happening again. These often include:

  • living a more active and healthier lifestyle
  • surgery
  • medications 


Cardiovascular diseases account for about one-third of all deaths globally. You can forget the differences between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest, however, both are life-threatening conditions. It is always advisable to seek medical help from an experienced cardiologist. Timely care and help can ensure an appropriate diagnosis and treatment of your condition. 

At the CK Birla Hospital, we ensure patients get holistic medical support which includes treatment in a compassionate environment. This patient-centric approach not only helps patients heal better but also ensures they are aware of the preventive measures as well. In case you need to consult a cardiologist, reach out to us, or book a direct appointment with Dr. Sanjeeva Kumar Gupta at the CK Birla Hospital. 


What is More Serious: a Heart Attack or Cardiac Arrest?

Both a heart attack and a sudden cardiac arrest are significant medical situations that can be fatal. Cardiac arrest is usually more severe, as it can result in death within minutes if proper medical care is not provided. Even when a heart attack doesn’t happen right away, it can still be quite hazardous if untreated.

What to Do Instantly in the Situation of Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest?

Quick action increases a person’s chance of survival during a heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest. For a heart attack, seek medical attention immediately by calling an ambulance. In case of a cardiac arrest, give CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) first immediately and seek professional emergency medical services.

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