Heart attack versus cardiac arrest
Contrary to what most people think, cardiac arrest is not a heart attack. Yes, both incidents have to do with the heart, but the medical diagnosis is slightly different.
The heart is a muscle. Cardiac arrest is when the heart malfunctions. A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is restricted. Both are common, potentially deadly medical emergencies.
What is Cardiac Arrest?
Cardiac arrest happens when the heart itself malfunctions. It usually means that there was damage to the heart muscles and that the heart isn’t working correctly. This is very different from when a patient has a heart attack, which is an external occurrence that affects the heart.
Cardiac arrest is usually triggered by an ‘electrical malfunction in the heart’. This malfunction results in an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).
The arrhythmia disrupts the heart’s ability to pump blood to the other parts of the body.
Cardiac arrest is fast and happens almost immediately, sometimes with no previous symptoms. The person will simply get a pain in the chest and collapse. It is categorised as the disruption of the heart’s pumping action that stops blood flow to the rest of the body and causes loss of consciousness, absence of pulse, and (if the heart cannot be re-started) death, Southern Cross Medical explains.
It weakens the heart, leaving it vulnerable. If the heart does not get enough oxygen-rich blood, part of the heart will die in what is called an infarct.
What is a heart attack?
Heart attacks are caused by many factors, mostly lifestyle orientated. Heart disease and poor circulation are regular culprits. Heart attacks can occur for hours, unnoticed. The heart requires an oxygen-rich blood supply to work.
When the blood flow inside of the coronary artery to the heart is blocked by either a fat deposit or any other build-up of cholesterol, part of the heart muscle can get damaged. This build-up creates plaque in the arteries. Plaque can break off and make its way into the heart. This is called a heart attack or myocardial infarction, explains The Medical Society.
Diabetes, high cholesterol and many hereditary conditions are known to cause these fatty deposits that can cause heart attacks. Heart attacks are not because of structural defects to the heart.
Heart attacks also cause damage to the structure of the heart. People who have suffered heart attacks are at higher risk of suffering cardiac arrest in future.
In cardiac arrest, the heart, in fact, stops beating. In a heart attack, the heart keeps beating while the attack is happening.
How do you identify a heart attack?
People who are having a heart attack usually experience a sharp pain in the heart and a tingle or numbness in the left arm. However, this isn’t always the case. For instance, women are known to experience a feeling similar to indigestion.
The intensity of the pain can vary from being a sharp pain, or a strange tingling and numbness to a dull ache. Most people lose the ability to use the affected arm. Coupled with shortness of breath, these symptoms are a medical emergency, regardless of whether it is a heart attack or something else.
Many people also experience light-headedness and euphoria (a sense of happiness or elation, usually from the endorphins released by the adrenaline).
“If you’re not sure, get it checked out,” says Charles Chambers, MD, director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at Penn State Hershey Heart and Vascular Institute.
“That’s especially true if you are 60 or older and if you are overweight, or have diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure,” says Vincent Bufalino, MD, an American Heart Association spokesman. “The more risk factors you have,” he told Web MD, “the more you should be concerned about anything that might be heart-related.”
What is coronary heart disease?
Coronary heart disease is a lifestyle disease that is caused by a build-up of fatty deposits (atheroma) on the walls of the arteries around the heart. The symptoms of coronary heart disease may also present very differently from person to person even if people have the same type of coronary heart disease.
The most dreaded symptom of coronary heart disease is a heart attack.
How to prevent coronary heart disease
A low-fat, high-fibre diet is recommended to prevent coronary heart disease. Remember, the healthier your diet, the better your heart’s health.
Your diet should include fresh fruit and vegetables and a large selection of whole grains. Be sure to limit the amount of salt and sugar you eat.
Avoid foods that are high in saturated fats. Saturated fats increase the levels of bad cholesterol in your blood.
Exercise every day to keep your circulation up! Stay hydrated and refrain from smoking tobacco and drinking too much alcohol. Caffeine is also a no-no! Stimulants are heavy on the heart.
Who is in most danger of heart disease?
In the event of an emergency, having an emergency response team at your fingertips can be the difference between life and death.
The iER app is a free emergency application that can be downloaded on any smart device. It gives the user peace of mind by offering a no-cost solution for emergencies. The App is a panic button that can be used in a variety of situations to ensure that the proper response team is sent to the scene of an emergency or crime. It is a one-click solution, available for everyone.
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The FREE iER App is the gateway to emergency response services, including a national network of private, semi-private and government emergency medical and non-medical response services.