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Key Differences Between a Heart Attack, Sudden Cardiac Arrest, and a Stroke

Infographic: American Heart Association

Is it a Heart Attack, Sudden Cardiac Arrest, or a Stroke?

They’re all serious conditions that require immediate medical attention but many people don’t fully understand the differences between these three common killers. Simply put, a heart attack is a circulatory problem, sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is an electrical malfunction in the heart, and a stroke is caused by a blood clot or ruptured blood vessel in the brain.  

In this article, we’ll help you understand what’s happening within the body during each of these medical emergencies.

Although the risk factors may be the same from person to person, understanding the differences between these conditions can be a matter of life and death.

What’s a Heart Attack?

Heart attacks are, essentially, a circulation problem and they occur when blood flow to a person’s heart is severely reduced or blocked. Heart attacks can be relatively mild or very, very serious.

During a heart attack, an artery becomes clogged and cannot carry enough oxygen to the heart. The heart may continue to beat normally but if the blockage is not quickly resolved, parts of the cardiac muscle will begin to die from lack of oxygen. The longer a heart attack goes on without treatment, the greater the damage to the muscle.

Symptoms of a Heart Attack

You may be able to prevent a heart attack from occurring if you know what to look for and you listen to your body! Symptoms can occur hours, days, and even weeks before the heart attack itself. The most common symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Pain or discomfort in the chest
  • Lightheadedness, nausea, or vomiting
  • Jaw, neck, or back pain
  • Discomfort or pain in arm or shoulder
  • Shortness of breath

It’s well worth noting that women may experience symptoms of a heart attack differently from men. Even though heart disease is the number-one killer of women in the United States, women often fail to identify their symptoms as warning signs of a heart attack (American Heart Association).

In addition to (or instead of) the symptoms listed above, women may experience pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, lightheadedness, fainting, flu-like symptoms or extreme fatigue.

What’s Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

Cardiac arrest is an electrical problem and is caused when an individual’s heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating, which prevents blood and oxygen from flowing to vital organs. Unlike a heart attack, SCA is always serious. Without the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) to shock the heart back into a healthy rhythm, death can occur within minutes.

Symptoms of Cardiac Arrest

A heart attack often telegraphs its arrival with clearly defined symptoms, SCA, however, can occur with little or no warning, as it did for SCA survivor Rob Seymour. Symptoms are immediate and dire: sudden loss of consciousness/responsiveness, lack of breathing, and no pulse. During a cardiac arrest, the heart stops beating and the organs of the body are deprived of oxygen.

When the heart stops beating, death can occur within minutes.

SCA can be caused by any number of events, such as ventricular fibrillation, a sudden blow to the chest, electrocution, drowning, drug abuse, heart attacks, cardiomyopathy, or hypothermia. Cardiac arrest can be reversible if it’s treated in the first few minutes with CPR and by using an AED on the victim.

What’s a Stroke?

A stroke is a “brain attack” that can happen to anyone at any time and occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked by a clogged or burst blood vessel. When blood flow to the brain is cut off, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die. When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain such as memory and muscle control are permanently lost (National Stroke Association).

Symptoms of Stroke

Using the acronym FAST, you just may be able to save someone’s life. If someone’s face begins to droop or they’re complaining of numbness, ask them to smile. If the person’s smile is lopsided, they may be having a stroke. If their arm is weak or numb, ask them to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? Is their speech slurred or strange? If someone is showing any of these symptoms, it’s time to call 9-1-1 immediately.

What You Can Do to Assist Someone Who is Experiencing a Heart Attack, SCA, or Having a Stroke?

If you witness someone suffering from a possible heart attack, SCA, or a stroke call 911 immediately. The operator may be able to help you administer compression-only CPR to the victim. If possible, ask a bystander to locate an AED.

You never know when your actions could help save a life.

To become better equipped to offer assistance, sign up for first aid, CPR, and AED training today! Cardio Partners offers CPR, First Aid, AED, and bloodborne pathogen training courses in all 50 states in traditional classroom settings and in blended learning courses. To learn more about our courses or to schedule a training, call our team at 866-349-4362 or email Cardio Partners at customerservice@cardiopartners.com.

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The 2018 Cardio Partners Gift Guide & Holiday Sale

Looking for the perfect gift for the life-saver in your family? You’ve come to the right place.

 

Happy Holidays from all of us here at Cardio Partners and AED.com! To celebrate, we’ve come up with a few unique gift ideas for the heart- and safety-conscious souls in your family.

Use the discount code HOLIDAY2018 at checkout to get 10% off your entire AED.com or Cardio Partners purchase.

For the On-the-Go Professional: Curaplex Pocket Mask with O2 Inlet

The Curaplex Pocket Mask with O2 Inlet is the perfect stocking stuffer for teachers, office managers, consultants, fitness instructors, and facilities managers, or just about anyone who is CPR-certified! This affordable, compact mask is suitable for use on adults, children, and infants and features a disposable one-way valve with a 3M Filtrete hydrophobic filter to help prevent the transmission of liquids and other secretions. The oxygen inlet facilitates the delivery of oxygen to breathing and non-breathing individuals. The pre-inflated cuff makes for quick and easy application and the compact carrying case keeps your mask in perfect working condition.

For the Always Prepared: Curaplex Stop the Bleed Kits

Earlier this year, our good friends at the Brentwood Fire and Rescue Department led a hands-on Stop the Bleed training at our offices just outside of Nashville. Since then, we’ve been huge proponents of these supplemental training programs, and we are pleased to offer Curaplex Stop the Bleed kits start at just $59.99. These compact kits are designed to provide a rescuer (whether a  civilian bystander or a first responder) with immediate access to life-saving products that can control bleeding and traumatic hemorrhaging.


These vacuum-packed and tamper-proof kits include:

  • 2 rolls of primed, compressed gauze dressing
  • 1 C-A-T® tourniquet
  • 1 emergency bandage
  • 1 permanent marker
  • 2 pairs of gloves, latex-free, large
  • Pair of trauma shears, 7.5”
  • Detailed and easy-to-follow directions

Advanced kits also include 1 Pack of HALO seals and QuikClot combat gauze.

For the Life-Long Learner: CPR and First Aid Training

If you’ve always wondered what you’d learn in a CPR class, CPR and First Aid training may be the perfect gift to give to yourself! It’s also the ideal gift for all the babysitters, new parents, high school students, and teachers on your list. Need some more convincing? Read our post, 10 Reasons Why You Should Learn CPR — and then sign up for a class near you!

For the Newly First Aid Certified: A Brand-New First Aid Kit

We carry a wide range of first aid kits. Our entry-level Curaplex First Aid Kit comes in a compact metal case. The case is portable or can be mounted for easy access. The kit includes one of each of the following:

  • Bandage, latex-free, 2”
  • Triangular bandage, with two pins, 36” x 51”
  • Box of adhesive bandages
  • Box of knuckle bandages
  • Gauze bandage, large, 24” x 72”
  • Roll of tape, waterproof, ½”
  • Roll of stretch gauze, 2” x 4 yd
  • Bottle of burn spray, 3 oz
  • Pair of scissors, 4-1/2”
  • Bottle of eye wash, 4 oz
  • Box of antiseptic wipes
  • Box of ammonia inhalants
  • Cold pack
  • Metal case

For the New Recruit: The Curaplex Officer Down Kit

The Curaplex Officer Down Individual First Aid Kits (IFAK) are designed for law enforcement officers, first responders, or members of the military. These highly portable individual trauma kits contain the essential supplies needed to treat life-threatening traumatic injuries — such as gunshot wounds or stab wounds — that occur in the field or in a combat environment.

For the Cardiac Arrest Survivor: An AED for the Home

If you’re looking a unique gift for your loved one, an automated external defibrillator is just the ticket. There are a lot of things to consider when purchasing an AED, so we recommend reading our post, Which AED is Right for You, or downloading our AED Starter’s Guide before making a decision. As of publication, our recertified Cardiac Science Powerheart G3 Plus was listed at $599, and we invite you to call us for pricing on our recertified HeartSine Samaritan PAD 300P (supplies are limited).

For our full line up of AEDs, CPR and AED Training, AED Accessories & Storage, and AED Services, call Cardio Partners at 866-349-4362. You can also email us at customerservice@cardiopartners.com.

Don’t forget to enter the discount code HOLIDAY2018 and save 10% off your entire order! Offer expires on December 31, 2018.

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Can Energy Drinks Cause Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

Are Energy Drinks Worth the Health Risks?

According to a recent Global Energy Drink Market Analysis, the market size for these popular beverages is expected to reach a whopping $72 billion by 2024 and is rising at an incredible market growth rate of 7.1%.

Energy drinks are big business. But are they really good for you?

While consumers are endorsing them with their dollars, physicians around the globe are calling for more research into the safety of the drinks and the World Health Organization warns that “Increased consumption of energy drinks may pose danger to public health, especially among young people.”

Last year the Washington Post reported that a South Carolina high school student collapsed and died after drinking a latte, a Mountain Dew, and an energy drink. “His sudden death may have remained a medical mystery, the coroner who conducted his autopsy said, if friends hadn’t described what Davis ingested during lunch: Enough caffeine to disrupt and ultimately stop his heart.”

What Are Energy Drinks?

We all probably know someone who relies on the heart-pounding wallop that guzzling an energy drink can provide, but what’s in them? And are they safe? Energy drinks (EDs) are commonly used as a dietary supplement by young adolescents and adults to boost physical performance or enhance concentration. For some, the number of “Monsters” or “Red Bulls” consumed serves as an indication of just how hard they’ve studied or how much they’ve been working.

Most EDs contain a variety of ingredients, but pharmaceutical-grade caffeine and additional caffeine from other natural sources is often the primary stimulant. By way of comparison, some energy drinks contain up to 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per can or bottle, compared to 100-150 mg in a typical cup of coffee.

Other components commonly found in these drinks include guarana, yerba mate, taurine, theophylline, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, vitamins, and L-carnitine. The long-term health effects of these additives are not well-documented.

Like caffeine, however, these additional ingredients are also believed to increase one’s energy and stimulate mental performance. Both guarana and yerba mate are natural sources of caffeine, making the total amount of caffeine in an ED hard to determine. Because of this, the actual amount of caffeine contained in an ED may not be accurately reflected on its label, making it difficult for consumers to understand how much of the stimulant they’re actually ingesting.

What are the Adverse Side-Effects of Energy Drinks?

In 2017, US News and World Report noted that in 2016 there were more than 20,000 emergency room visits attributed to the ingestion of energy drinks. And, because the drinks are often marketed to younger consumers, some 1,145 Americans ages 12 to 17 were admitted to emergency rooms for energy drink-related health emergencies in 2007. That number climbed to 1,499 in 2011 (Centers for Disease Control).

Although most healthy adults can enjoy the occasional energy drink without harm, possible side effects of consuming EDs include: elevated blood pressure, dehydration, insomnia, anxiety, increased heart rate, increased corrected QT interval, supraventricular arrhythmia, ventricular arrhythmia, coronary artery spasm, coronary artery thrombosis, aortic dissection, and sudden cardiac death.

Recent research shows just one energy drink can affect blood vessel function (Science Daily). Other studies have shown that caffeine-and-herbal combinations can increase stress hormones and are linked to changes in blood pressure and the heart’s electrical activity.

Potential long-term, chronic effects may include hypertensive heart disease, coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis, cerebrovascular disease, and peripheral arterial disease.

“Energy drinks are frequently consumed by young athletes and there are reports of morbidity and mortality associated with consumption. In particular, susceptible individuals include younger, smaller, caffeine-naïve/sensitive, pregnant or breastfeeding women and those with underlying medical conditions. While most healthy adults can consume a single energy drink without any significant negative acute health effects, the long-term effects of chronic consumption have not been well studied” (American College of Cardiology).

What are Some Healthy Alternatives to Energy Drinks?

Not only are EDs packed with unhealthy levels of caffeine, but they’re also loaded with sugar. You may have noticed that we’re on a health kick around here, so be sure to check out our heart-healthy posts including 5 Strategies to Prevent Heart Disease, The Great American Smokeout, and  How Obesity Plays a Role in Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Young People.

In the meantime, here are a few healthy alternatives to energy drinks for you to incorporate into your diet and lifestyle to help ensure that your body is working at its best:

  • Protein: Put down the can and step away from the sugar and caffeine! Healthy, lean proteins can help keep our bodies alert and encourage our bodies to burn calories.
  • Dark chocolate: An ounce or two of dark chocolate contains just enough caffeine and flavonoids to give your brain a boost.
  • Water: Ditch the ED and grab a glass of water. If you need a little kick, squeeze in a slice or two of lemon.
  • Exercise: Take a quick break from your studies and your deadlines and run around the block or jog in place. It’s the perfect way to get the blood flowing.
  • Green Tea: If you’re still craving a jolt of caffeine, green tea is the way to go. All the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties can’t hurt, either!
  • Green Juices or Smoothies: Dark green veggies such as spinach, kale, and parsley are full of B vitamins that our metabolism needs to run at full steam.

For information about purchasing a new or recertified AED for your home or workplace, visit AED.com or call Cardio Partners at 866-349-4362. We also welcome your emails, you can reach us at customerservice@cardiopartners.com.

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