Because cardiac arrest and heart attacks are commonly used to describe medical emergencies, there is a certain level of confusion between the two terms. Some people may think a heart attack is actually cardiac arrest, others believe that cardiac arrest is a heart attack, and still more people consider the two interchangeable.
CPR instructors, nurses, doctors and other medical personnel know the difference, but that doesn’t mean the knowledge is off-limits to the rest of us. In fact, realizing the distinction between cardiac arrest and a heart attack could help save lives!
Let’s go over some basic facts; once you realize the causes of each emergency, it all falls into place.
#1 – Cardiac arrest is an electrical issue with the heart, and a heart attack is a circulation problem. Cardiac arrest happens when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions to cause an irregular heartbeat (or arrhythmia). Consequently, there is no blood transported to the lungs, brain and other organs. A heart attack is caused by a main artery (or arteries) closing (partially or wholly), preventing blood flow to the heart, lungs and other organs.
#2 – CPR is used to help victims of cardiac arrest, not a heart attack. CPR can help maintain blood flow to those essential organs until professional medical assistance arrives. For heart attacks, it’s best to call 9-1-1 for EMTs and other properly trained personnel.
#3 – Here’s a crucial non-difference: in either case, prompt action can help save someone’s life! Whether it’s performing CPR or contacting emergency responders, time is of the essence.
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