Cardiac Arrest vs. Heart Attack: Know the Difference


In the medical community, heart attacks and cardiac arrests are often used interchangeably. However, it's important to understand the difference between these two conditions because each requires a different type of treatment.

What is a heart attack?

A heart attack is a blockage of the coronary arteries. These arteries supply the heart muscle with oxygen-rich blood and can damage the heart muscle if they are blocked. A person experiencing a heart attack will often feel sudden pain in the chest that spreads through other parts of their body, such as their arms or jaw. The severity of symptoms varies depending on how much blood flow to your heart has been cut off by a blocked artery.

Heart attacks can be fatal if not treated quickly by emergency medical services or at an urgent care facility, so it's important to know what signs and symptoms you're experiencing when you think you may be having one!

What is cardiac arrest?

A heart attack is a medical emergency that occurs when the blood supply to your heart is cut off. This can be caused by a blocked artery or other problems with your heart's function.

Cardiac arrest occurs when the electrical signals that control the heartbeat stop suddenly, causing death if not treated immediately. Cardiac arrest can happen without warning; however, it most often happens after an acute coronary event such as sudden chest pain or shortness of breath (symptoms of myocardial infarction). It's important to know the difference between these two conditions because treatment differs depending on whether they're caused by coronary artery disease or other factors like electrolyte imbalances.

How do they differ?

Heart attack and cardiac arrest are two different conditions, but they can have similar symptoms.

  • Heart attack: A heart attack is a medical emergency that happens when blood flow to the heart becomes blocked. This is usually caused by fatty buildup or plaque in the arteries. In some cases, a heart attack can be triggered by stress or high cholesterol levels.
  • Cardiac arrest: Cardiac arrest occurs when the electrical function in one part of your heart stops working properly and causes it to beat irregularly or stop beating altogether--and this can lead to death if not treated immediately. This condition is often caused by other conditions like arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat) or coronary artery disease (hardening of the arteries).

Symptoms of a heart attack and cardiac arrest.

There are a lot of similarities between cardiac arrest and heart attacks. Both can cause chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, sweating, fatigue, and dizziness. However, there are some key differences that can help you determine whether or not the problem is cardiac arrest or a heart attack:

  • Chest pain: Heart attack symptoms include sharp or stabbing pain in the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes (or may come and go). Cardiac arrest symptoms don't have any pain associated with them--the victim will just suddenly collapse unconscious without warning; this doesn't happen during a heart attack because there's no time for any warning signs to occur before the victim collapses.
  • Pain in left arm: If you experience severe pressure in your left arm while experiencing cardiac arrest symptoms such as unconsciousness or loss of consciousness then it's likely that this is caused by blood clots moving through your bloodstream from elsewhere within your body (such as from an artery near where an atherosclerotic plaque has ruptured). If this happens then immediate medical attention is required!

Heart attack vs. coronary artery disease.

Heart attack and coronary artery disease are two different things. Heart attack is caused by a blockage in the coronary arteries, while coronary artery disease is a disease of the coronary arteries. Coronary artery disease can cause a heart attack, but it's not always so straightforward: there are several other diseases that can affect the heart and lead to chest pain or other symptoms similar to those of a heart attack--cardiomyopathy (a weakening of your heart muscle), arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats), and heart failure being among them.

If you think you're having symptoms of myocardial infarction (or "MI"), call 911 immediately so that paramedics can transport you to an emergency room for treatment with clot-busting drugs like tPA (tissue plasminogen activator).

When to seek medical attention after having a heart attack or cardiac arrest?

After a heart attack or cardiac arrest, it's important to get medical attention as soon as possible. If you are having chest pain or other symptoms of a heart attack, call 911 immediately and follow the dispatcher's instructions until help arrives. If you can't call 911 due to an emergency situation (such as a fire), drive yourself or another person who is with you to the nearest hospital instead of waiting for emergency responders.

If someone has had a cardiac arrest and been resuscitated by CPR, they still need further treatment in a hospital setting because there may be damage done during the time between when their heart stopped beating and when they were revived--this is called reperfusion injury.


Cardiac arrest and heart attack are two different things. Cardiac arrest is a medical emergency, while heart attacks are not. Cardiac arrest can be treated with CPR, but heart attacks cannot be.

The best way to avoid cardiac arrest is to know what causes it and how to treat it if you or someone else experiences symptoms of cardiac arrest in the future.

If someone has a cardiac event (such as an irregular heartbeat), they may experience chest pain or discomfort in their arms, neck, or jaw; shortness of breath; nausea/vomiting; dizziness/lightheadedness; weakness on one side of their body; palpitations (feeling their heart beat rapidly). These symptoms should be treated immediately by calling 911 so that paramedics can assess whether or not it's actually a heart attack or something else entirely (like an anxiety attack).


We hope that this article has helped you understand the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest. If you suspect that someone is having a heart attack, please call 911 immediately. It's important not to panic but also not to delay calling for help if there is any doubt about what they might be experiencing!

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