According to the American Heart Association, there is a huge difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest¹. While many might believe they are the same thing and are often used as interchangeable terms, the two differ in severity. A heart attack happens when there is a loss of blood supply to the heart muscle due to a blocked artery, while cardiac arrest occurs when the heart malfunctions and suddenly stops pumping blood without warning. Having a heart attack usually can last for several hours and if caught in time, has a higher probability of survival, however if a heart attack continues untreated, it can lead to cardiac arrest. It is extremely important to pay close attention to the differences between the two and to understand some of the early signs.
You Know That You’re Having a Heart Attack When…
You Feel Chest Discomfort
Chest discomfort is one of the very first early signs of a heart attack. This is typically defined as feeling like the chest is being squeezed, in pain or compressed. This feeling usually lasts longer than a few minutes or can reoccur. It is not abnormal for this sign to be ignored due to some patients confusing it with other conditions such as heart burn. Therefore, it is important that if you experience chest discomfort, it is always best to see a medical practitioner to clarify whether or not it is a heart attack symptom. It is also important to note that this symptom may not be obvious to every patient as some people may have a heart attack without realizing it.
You Feel Discomfort In Your Upper Body
People who experience a heart attack normally notice pain or numbing in certain areas of their upper body. One of the most common areas is one or both arms. Other areas that might feel pain or numbness is the neck, the back, or the abdomen. These areas can vary among patients depending on the location of the artery blockage.
Shortness Of Breath
Whether or not an individual experiences chest discomfort, the lack of blood circulating through certain tissues and a drop in oxygen to the lungs will cause a patient to experience shortness of breath. Easy daily activities such as climbing up and down stairs could cause a heart attack victim to feel tired, exhausted and out of breath.
Other Common Signs Include…
Breaking out in a cold sweat, lightheadedness, nausea and dizziness are other common symptoms of someone experiencing a heart attack. The longer that these symptoms continue, the more likely the condition will worsen and eventually become fatal.
You Know That You’re Having a Cardiac Arrest When…
You Feel Heart Palpitations
According to Healthline, the heartbeat is controlled by electrical impulses² and when there is a change in the impulse pattern, an irregular heartbeat can occur. Cardiac arrest eventually occurs when the rhythm comes to a sudden halt, causing the heart to stop all together.
You Lose Consciousness
Unlike a heart attack which can be ongoing for several hours before becoming life-threatening, cardiac arrest can cause someone to faint, collapse and lose consciousness right away without any symptoms being experienced prior to it. Those in this state should immediately seek medical attention.
You Have A Weak Pulse Or No Pulse
Normally when someone can’t find a pulse, it can mean one of two things: either the individual is deceased, or their pulse is weak because they are experiencing a state of shock. Someone who suffers from cardiac arrest is likely to have a weak pulse since their heart has come to a quick halt and stopped pumping blood.
Heart attack symptoms can occur differently among men and women. Studies show that men are at a higher risk of suffering from both conditions, however women usually experience more significant symptoms than men³. While these conditions may be different, they are still linked together as one normally leads to the other.
If you suffer from a heart condition(s) that will increase the risk of a heart attack or cardiac arrest, please call (727) 466-6789 to schedule an appointment. LifeWorks Wellness Center offers many treatments that can decrease the risk of a heart attack or cardiac arrest and increase the health of the heart.
If you or someone you know is suffering from cardiac arrest or a heart attack, please call 9-1-1.