Differentiating between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest.
It is not uncommon for people to be confused between a heart attack and cardiac arrest as both may sound the same but in fact they are truly different in nature. How then would you know if someone is having a heart attack or cardiac arrest and what can you do to help?
An easy differentiation would be, heart attack is a vessel clot problem whereas cardiac arrest is an electrical problem.
Heart attack occurs when an artery that supplies blood to the heart is blocked, preventing blood from reaching the heart. And when this continues without intervention, the vessel as well as that part of the heart where the artery supplies to will begin to die.
On the other hand, cardiac arrest is due to an electrical malfunction of the heart that causes irregular rhythm (arrhythmia) which in turn disrupts blood flow to the brain and the rest of the body.
How do I know if I am having a heart attack?
Now, although not every chest pain is a heart attack, we should never take chest pain lightly as early intervention might save your life! Seek medical attention IMMEDIATELY if you are facing the symptoms below.
Signs of heart attack:
Chest pain characteristics:
●Chest pain or discomfort (pressure, tightness, or squeezing)
●Pain spreads through the chest and others areas of the body, including the upper abdomen, shoulders, arms, neck and throat, or lower jaw and teeth.
●Pain comes on gradually and lasts more than a few seconds
Other symptoms to look out for:
●Shortness of breath
●Nausea, vomiting, or belching
●Palpitations (skipped heart beats)
So, how do I know if I have a pending cardiac arrest instead?
What can I do to help when I see someone unconscious?
CALL for Help - 911 or any Emergency Service or tell anyone nearby to call and reach for an Automated External Defibrillator (AED).
Check breathing - no breathing or only gasping is an indication to start CPR
CPR - Push hard and fast, 100-120 beats per minute, at the center of the chest, allowing full recoil and with a depth of 5cm.
Use an AED whenever available, follow the instructions and remember to NOT touch the patient when the shock is being administered.
Continue CPR right after the defibrillator stops administering the shock until the ambulance or someone more advanced arrives.
As the saying goes, Prevention is better than Cure.
Just like every other disease, it is more important to know what the risk factors are and prevent them then actually going through the pain. Because cardiac arrest can occur suddenly and cause sudden death, knowing the risk factors are even more important in order to avoid it from happening.
It is no surprise that cigarette smoking increases one’s risk significantly as well as having a family history of sudden cardiac arrest with or without heart attack (a heart attack can cause cardiac arrest). Other risk factors include excessive alcohol intake, psychosocial factors that are shocking and an elevated plasma free fatty acid level.
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