Often times sudden cardiac arrest and heart attack are used synonymously. In truth, the two are very different from one another.
In short, a heart attack is about “circulation” and sudden cardiac arrest is an “electrical” problem.
A heart attack occurs when a blocked artery prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching a section of the heart. If the blocked artery is not reopened quickly, the part of the heart normally nourished begins to die. The longer a person goes without receiving treatment, greater damage will be done to the heart. Symptoms can occur almost immediately. Materializing as a sharp pain in the chest, and may travel to the arm, shoulder and back. The symptoms may occur slowly over days or weeks prior to a heart attack. These symptoms often appear as shortness of breath or heartburn. Unlike with sudden cardiac arrest, the heart usually doesn’t stop beating during a heart attack.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest
Sudden cardiac arrest occurs suddenly and very often without warning. It is when the heart abruptly begins to beat in an abnormal or irregular rhythm called (arrhythmia). Without organized electrical activity in the heart muscle, there is no consistent contraction of the ventricles, which results in the heart’s inability to generate an adequate cardiac output. With its pumping action disrupted, the heart cannot pump blood to the brain, lungs and other organs. Within seconds a person will lose consciousness and have no pulse. Death can occur within minutes if the victim does not receive immediate treatment.
Heart attacks do increase the risk for sudden cardiac arrest. Other heart conditions can also increase the likelihood for sudden cardiac arrest as well. These conditions include a thickened heart cardiomyopathy, heart failure, arrhythmias, particularly ventricular fibrillation, and long Q-T syndrome.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest
A cardiac arrest victim can be saved if treated immediately. First, **call 9-1-1 for emergency medical services. Then get a Defibrillator (AED) automated external defibrillator if one is available and use it as soon as it arrives. Begin CPR immediately and continue until professional emergency medical personnel arrive. If two people are available, one should begin CPR immediately while the other calls 9-1-1 and finds the Defibrillator.
Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death
There are over 320,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur annually in the United States. By performing Hands-Only CPR, you can double or even triple a victim’s chance of survival.