Heart-Attack-Cardiac-Arrest Often on the news, the terms cardiac arrest and heart attack are seemingly interchanged.  This stems from a case of misinformation and some shoddy acting coming out of Hollywood.  Unfortunately, this leads to some very serious health risks and people thinking that they’ll know when they have a heart attack—the truth is, you might not even know.

That’s because unlike what we think of when we hear heart attack—normally a person clutching their chest, keeling over and dying—that’s actually cardiac arrest.  In actuality, heart attacks often go unnoticed or if they are noticed, they are written off as indigestion or a random pain.  This is very dangerous.

What’s a Heart Attack?

A heart attack is actually a blockage inside of a coronary artery.  Coronary arteries carry the blood that is ripe with oxygen to the heart that the heart needs to survive.  When an obstruction occurs, the blood flow—and oxygen supply—to the heart is cut off.  If this blockage occurs for more than 20 to 30 minutes, the part of the heart muscle that is fed by the block artery will die from lack of oxygen.

This could happen without the victim even feeling it.  As mentioned above, it could just seem like some mild chest pain or heartburn.  Of course, it could feel much more severe.  The bottom line is that you need to learn how to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack so that you can get help before permanent damage is done.

Here are some of the most common symptoms of heart attacks:

  • A pain in the chest that could take on any number of forms such as burning, squeezing or heaviness.  Typically occurs right in the center of the chest.
  • Tightness or pressure on the chest that can radiate to the back, arms, jaw, neck or back.  There is no side preference as it can occur on the left only, the right only, or both.
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat
  • Feeling weak and fatigued
  • Feeling nauseous
  • Having trouble breathing or experiencing a shortness of breath
  • Dizziness and / or lightheaded feelings
  • A pain or discomfort between the shoulder blades
  • Jaw and back pain that results in trouble sleeping
  • An impending sense of doom or feeling that something is very wrong
  • Anxiety

These symptoms can come and go over minutes, days, hours or weeks.  They can occur in tandem or alone, or in any combination.  You may experience one symptom only once, and then a range of other symptoms at other times.  It’s very confusing, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms, call 911 and then take an aspirin to help break up any potential blood clot or blockage in the heart that is causing the attack.

What’s Cardiac Arrest?

Cardiac arrest is the complete stoppage of effective beating in the heart, meaning that the blood is not getting to the brain and heart, resulting in a loss of consciousness and then life.  Cardiac arrest (literally meaning your heart stops) typically results from a massive heart attack where there is extensive damage or death to the heart muscle either present or occurring.

Heart attacks don’t always result in cardiac arrests and cardiac arrests can occur from other causes such as damage to other organs.  For instance, many cardiac arrests stem from drowning, chocking, respiratory failure, pneumonia, etc.  Any time there is insignificant oxygen flowing to the heart, cardiac arrest will be the outcome. Additionally, the brain can be affected by head trauma, drug overdoses, stroke and any other number of things.  In this case, the brain cannot tell the lungs to breathe, causing no oxygen to go to the heart, resulting in cardiac arrest.

The bottom line here is that cardiac arrest can result in death very quickly and it doesn’t always stem from a heart attack or heart disease—but it can.

Which is More Severe?

While both are very serious, it’s important to note that over 92% of those who go into cardiac arrest do not survive according to the AMA (American Heart Association).  Additionally, over 300,000 people each year go into cardiac arrest outside of a hospital.  This is crucial because for every minute that passes after cardiac arrest, a person’s rates of survival are reduced by 7 to 10% without CPR and defibrillation.

If cardiac arrest is treated with a defibrillator within a few minutes, it can sometimes be reversed, but not always.  The idea behind the defibrillator is to shock the heart back to a normal rhythm with electricity.  After about 10 minutes, there is pretty much no chance at resuscitation, even with medical intervention.

That’s why it’s vital that no matter what the situation, if you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, it’s absolutely imperative that you get them to a hospital in case cardiac arrest should occur.  It just might save your life.

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