Cardiac Arrest vs. Heart Attack

Cardiac Arrest vs. Heart AttackEach year, more than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the United States. This October, Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month, take the time to become aware of your risks and the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest.

A heart attack may come from cardiac arrest, but they are very different. A heart attack is caused by a blockage that stops blood flow to the heart. A heart attack or myocardial infarction refers to the death of heart muscle tissue due to that loss of blood supply.

Cardiac arrest is caused when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions. The heart suddenly stops working properly, which can be by caused by abnormal heart rhythms called arrhythmias. It can be caused by any known heart condition as well as scarring from a prior heart attack, cardiomyopathy, certain heart medications, electrical abnormalities, blood vessel abnormalities, and recreational drug use.

Cardiac arrest strikes immediately and without any warning, therefore it’s important to know how to help a cardiac arrest victim with CPR. Some signs of cardiac arrest are sudden loss of responsiveness and no normal breathing. If someone is experiencing these symptoms, follow these steps:

  1. Tap and shout
    • Check if the person responds. Tap him and shout, “Are you OK?” If he doesn’t move, speak, blink, or otherwise react, then he is not responding.
  1. Yell for help
    • Tell someone to call 9-1-1 or your emergency response number and get an AED (if one is available).
    • If you are alone with an adult who has these signs of cardiac arrest, call 9-1-1 and get an AED (if one is available).
  2. Check breathing:
    • If the person isn’t breathing or is only gasping, give CPR.
  3. Give CPR: Push hard and fast
    • Push down at least 2 inches at a rate of 100 to 120 pushes a minute in the center of the chest, allowing the chest to come back up to its normal position after each push.
  4. Use an AED as soon as it arrives by turning it on and following the prompt.
  5. Keep pushing until the person starts to breathe or move or someone with more advanced training takes over.

To learn more about CPR, please visit CPR.Heart.Org


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