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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest - What's The Difference?

African American Having Heart Attack

Many people use heart attack and cardiac arrest interchangeably, but they are actually two entirely different medical conditions. Here are the differences between the two.

Heart attacks are usually painful attacks that are caused by blockage of the arteries that send blood to the heart. The medical term for heart attack is myocardial infarction. Many people do not recognize the symptoms of heart attacks and may wait hours before going to the emergency room. Seeking medical attention as soon as possible is critical as this may prevent further damage to the heart and possible death. During a heart attack, the patient is awake and the heart continues to beat.

Cardiac "arrest" means just that. The heart is arrested, or stops beating. This is known as sudden cardiac arrest. Patients are also in cardiac arrest when they collapse and their breathing is abnormal. Without CPR and immediate medical treatment, patients in cardiac arrest can die within just minutes. When a person collapses, is unresponsive, and is not breathing normally, they are most likely experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. Whether or not the victim survives depends largely upon the immediate response by those in close proximity to the victim to keep the heart beating.

People who have suffered heart attacks have a 1.5 to 15 times greater risk of illness and death from heart failure than the rest of the population. The risk of another heart attack, sudden death, heart failure and stroke for both men and women is substantial. In addition, 24.5 percent of men and 11.6 percent of women will have sudden death within 5 years after a heart attack.

Statistics show that 9 out of 10 patients who experience cardiac arrest die. However, four out of 10 are much more likely to survive if CPR is administered immediately before the emergency medical team arrives.

In either case, the treatment for both is to seek medical attention immediately. The quicker doctors can begin emergency medical care, the greater the chance of surviving either a heart attack or cardiac arrest.
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