21-04-2021 / Heart & Vascular

Heart Attack and Sudden Cardiac Arrest | Differences

Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest sound similar but are a lot different. Know the differences between the two, and also the causes, symptoms, treatment, and more.

Difference between a Heart Attack and Sudden Cardiac Arrest
Mazia AhmedMazia Ahmed
Mazia Ahmed
MSc Nutrition Science, Ph.D. Scholar
Medically Cited
Fact Checked

Table of Content


  • People often use the terms cardiac arrest and heart attack to refer to the same thing. But these two terms are anything but the same. Learn what a cardiac arrest and a heart attack are and why they differ from each other.

  • Even though they both determine there is something wrong around the heart, cardiac arrest and heart attack are not synonymous. To sum up the difference between cardiac arrest and heart attack in just one simple example, you can compare your heart with a house. A cardiac arrest will then be an electricity failure, whereas a heart attack will be a plumbing issue.

  • This analogy might be vague at this moment. However, as you go deeper into this post, the concept will be clearer and more intelligible.

What is a Heart Attack?

  • When an artery becomes narrow and can't supply the heart with sufficient blood, a heart attack happens. Sometimes the artery might get blocked and become unable to convey any blood through itself. Such a blocked artery should be opened quickly. The associated part of the heart that used to get blood supply from that particular artery could be severely damaged or die.

  • The longer one delays recovering the artery, the worse his heart condition gets.

Percentage of heart Attack in People of Different Age group

What is a Cardiac Arrest?

  • Cardiac arrest happens because of a particular kind of electrical malfunction. This malfunction happens in the heart and leads to an irregular heartbeat. Such a case of irregular heartbeats is known as arrhythmia.

  • When the heart's pumping action gets disrupted, the heart becomes unable to continue the blood supply, along with oxygen, to the lungs, brain, and other vital organs. Once this happens, the person loses pulse and consciousness at once. If the emergency and immediate treatment can't reach the victim, he/she will die within minutes.

  • As you see, heart attack and cardiac arrest are two different states of heart disease. Their causes and symptoms also have explicit distinctions.

Percentage of Cardiac Arrest in People of Different Age group

3 Major Causes of Heart Attack

1. Blockage in coronary arteries is primarily liable for heart attacks. Such narrowing down can end up being a total block in one or multiple arteries. Usually, a substance made of fatty deposits like cholesterol builds up in the artery. This buildup substance is widely known as plaque.

2. In cases of too much plaque-forming, those coronary arteries can't supply the necessary amount of oxygen and blood to the heart.

3. The narrowing down of the arteries is called coronary artery disease. It is the prime reason for a heart attack.

3 Major Causes of Cardiac Arrest

1. In most cases, a cardiac arrest happens because of irregular rhythm in the heart, which is also known as ventricular fibrillation.

2. Such fibrillation occurs when the electrical activity that keeps our hearts running becomes abnormal. It stops our hearts from beating and evokes a cardiac arrest.

3. Other than this, some other prime reasons for cardiac arrest are a heart attack, cardiomyopathy, congenital heart disease, and heart valve disease. Acute myocarditis is another catalyst for cardiac arrest. 

6 Primary Symptoms of Heart Attack

Among many severe and subtle symptoms of heart attacks, below are the most common ones:

Symptoms of Cardiac Problem

1. Pressure, heaviness, discomfort, tightness, pain, or squeezing in the chest, below the breastbone or arm

2. Pain or discomfort around the back, throat, and arm areas

3. Indigestion problem, mostly because of feeling full, or upset stomach

4. Heartburn-like choking problem

5. Vomiting, dizziness, upset stomach, and sweating

6. Fast and irregular heartbeat

7 Primary Symptoms of Cardiac Arrest

Symptoms of cardiac arrest can emerge suddenly and drastically. They include:

1. Sudden collapse

2. No sign of a pulse

3. Shortness of or no breathing

4. Losing consciousness

All these symptoms are instant. That means once they show up, there will be less time to reach treatment for the patient. Some other symptoms might appear a little before the arrest, like:

5. Discomfort in chest

6. Pounding and fluttering heart

7. Shortness of breath

What makes cardiac arrest more dangerous is that it can occur without giving you any warning. 

Heart Attack in India

  • Studies show that younger people in India are more vulnerable to heart diseases. The prime reasons that draw younger generations to such fatality are abnormal amounts of fat in their blood, smoking, and hypertension. Genetics also plays a significant role.

  • Heart attack is becoming more common in the age group of 30 to 40 years. According to studies, around 50% of death from heart attacks occurs in people who are less than 50 years old. The Indian Heart Association says that while around 50% of heart attacks occur in people who are under 50 years, about 25% of heart attacks occur below the age of 40.

Cardiac Arrest in India

  • According to a recent study, cardiac arrest contributes to 10.3% of the overall human mortality in India. In comparison with study reports in Europe and the United States, a crucial distinction emerged. The average age for cardiac arrest-related death, which is 60 years, is way lower in India than that of those countries. 21% of people die of cardiac arrests who are under 50 years of age.

  • In those studies, about 30% of such cases happen due to myocardial infarction. They also accused myocardial infarction of 50% of cases of cardiac arrest in younger people.

Is There Any Connection Between These Two?

  • Cardiac arrest and heart attack might be linked sometimes. A heart attack can often trigger a cardiac arrest. That's why cardiac arrest often happens after a heart attack, especially during the recovery period.

  • Notably, most heart attacks don't evoke a cardiac arrest. But few cardiac arrests happen without a prior heart attack.

Heart Attack Treatment

Treatment of Cardiac Problem
  • Whenever someone feels pain or discomfort in the heart, the victim himself or his assistance should call for emergency help as soon as possible. Even a minute's delay can make the condition worse.

  • The emergency medical team should be sufficiently equipped. They should begin treatment to relieve the patient from different symptoms. The victim should be brought to the hospital within an hour or sooner.

  • In the meantime, if the heart stops beating, the emergency medical team should take measures to revive it at once. Heart attack victims are required to be visited by a doctor and receive advance treatment. 

Sudden Cardiac Arrest Treatment

  • Cardiac arrest can be handled with efficacy if the patient gets treatment within a few minutes. The primary treatments for cardiac arrest are of two types: using a defibrillator or giving CPR. But first, it should be assured that an emergency medical team is to attend to the patient as early as possible because how early the primary treatment will begin mostly determines the chance of recovery for the patient.

  • After informing the emergency team, make sure that a defibrillator is given to the patient. Then continuous CPR must be given to him until the emergency team arrives.

Word of Wisdom

From their origins, catalysts, and definition to their treatment, a heart attack and a cardiac arrest have only a few things in common. The latter comes most of the time after the prior one. However, the two diseases differ mostly from each other. They have different reasons for their happening and show different symptoms, and even their treatment procedures are different. So, none should ever confuse them to be the same.

FAQ on Heart Attack and Sudden Cardiac Arrest

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