The difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest
Heart attacks and cardiac arrests are often incorrectly used interchangeably but they are separate conditions that require different urgent care. Knowing the difference between them, and the symptoms to look out for, can make all the difference in an emergency.
There are major differences between the two conditions and an automatic external defibrillator may not be needed in some situations so it is important to understand which is which.
When is a defibrillator needed?
There may be warning signs in the days leading up to a heart attack. Chest pains can occur minute, days or even weeks before a heart attack takes place, so any reoccurring issues should be looked at by a medical professional.
When an attack happens, the heart is still beating but blood flow is significantly decreased due to a blocked or clogged artery. The person may or may not remain conscious during the attack which can then lead to cardiac arrest.
A heart attack is an incredibly serious event but a cardiac arrest is worse. It is caused by an ‘electrical’ problem in which the normal functions of the heart are interrupted. This means it behaves erratically and is unable to pump oxygenated blood to the rest of the body.
If a person collapses suddenly and is not breathing, they are suffering from a cardiac arrest and require CPR and an automatic external defibrillator (AED).
If there is an AED nearby it should be retrieved and applied immediately. They give clear audible instructions that are easy to follow and determine if a shock is needed by analysing the rhythm of the person’s heart. In some cases, a shock is not required and the AED will therefore not administer one. If the heart falls into a rhythm that requires a shock, then the AED will take action.
A cardiac arrest can occur in adults of all ages so it is important that a defibrillator is on hand at as many businesses, schools, public spaces, gyms as possible to give someone suffering from an attack the best chance of making a full recovery.
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