Though heart attack and cardiac arrest may sound similar, these medical emergencies could not be more different. A person suffering from a heart attack has a blocked artery preventing the blood flow to the heart, while a cardiac arrest is a result of an electrical disturbance in heart. This malfunction causes an irregular heartbeat, which prevents blood from pumping to the brain, lungs and other organs.
Recognize the symptoms
The symptoms of a cardiac arrest and heart attack are drastically different. In moments, a person can go into cardiac arrest. Usually, a victim will become unresponsive and stop breathing unexpectedly or start gasping for air. Whereas for a heart attack, symptoms can be immediate, but also have the potential to start out slowly, lasting for hours, days or even weeks prior to a heart attack. Major symptoms include shortness of breath, cold sweats, nausea, and vomiting. It could also cause a strong discomfort in the chest as well as other parts of the upper body. Women may experience different symptoms than men such as back or jaw pain.
How to respond to both
Call 9-1-1. If a person believes he or she is having a heart attack or cardiac arrest, do not hesitate to call 9-1-1. Regardless of whether or not you know the type of emergency, it’s important to get help on the way as soon as possible. The sooner emergency medical services arrive, the faster they can start treatment. Remember, every second counts! For some victims, a cardiac arrest or heart attack can be reversible if treated in time.
Take action. Is it a cardiac arrest? Start preforming CPR right away. Should an automated external defibrillator (AED) be available, quickly use it to help the victim. If possible, have a second person call the emergency number while responding to the person in need of treatment.