Heart Attack vs. Cardiac Arrest
People often mistake the terms “heart attack” and “cardiac arrest” as meaning the same thing. While a heart attack can lead to cardiac arrest, the two are not synonymous.
A heart attack – whose technical name is myocardial infarction – occurs when there is a reduction in blood flow to the heart muscle (myocardium), which can then become damaged. As blood is the delivery source for oxygen, one of our body’s most vital nutrients and fuel sources, anytime it is reduced there is potential for damage to whatever area of the body it supplies. This reduction can occur over time, due to cholesterol accumulation or blood vessel hardening, or it can be acute, due to damage in the blood vessel lining and our body’s attempt to fix it with clotting. This can be caused by genetic or lifestyle factors, or both. If left untreated, the damaged heart muscle can die (infarct) and lose its ability to function properly. The extent of the damage can be great enough that it can cause the heart to stop pumping all together. A person suffering from a heart attack will still have a heartbeat and is not a candidate for CPR. However, when the heart stops, this is cardiac arrest, and that person is someone who needs CPR. The key to treating a heart attack is early recognition, calling 9-1-1, and getting medical care immediately before it progresses.
In medicine, we use the term “arrest” to describe something that has stopped. Therefore, the term cardiac arrest refers to a heart that has stopped beating. Cardiac arrest can occur suddenly, due to an irregular heartbeat known as an arrhythmia, or it can be caused by other secondary factors, like poisoning or hypoxia. Regardless of the cause, someone in cardiac arrest requires immediate CPR and lifesaving interventions.
At Vive CPR, we understand the importance of proper education and training in cardiovascular care. Visit our website, www.vivecpr.com, to learn more about heart attack vs. cardiac arrest, and to schedule a class today. Vive CPR offers First Aid and CPR certification classes, BLS, ACLS, Bloodborne Pathogens, Infant CPR for Parents, as well as ECG, EMT, and NREMT tutoring.
Thanks for explaining this distinction so clearly! The overview you provided in the CPR class was also really helpful.