How Do Heart Attack, Cardiac Arrest, And Stroke Differ From One Another? Experts Reveal

Experts have differentiated heart attack, cardiac arrest, and stroke. These serious medical conditions have distinct signs and risk factors that one should know to avoid the risk of death or infirmity from the stroke.

One common misinterpretation is that heart attack and cardiac arrest are the same. The fact is they are dissimilar and have different problems.

Jennifer Haythe, M.D., a cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine and co-director of the Women’s Center for Cardiovascular Health at Columbia University Medical Center, told SELF that a heart attack occurs when one of the main arteries of the heart gets blocked. This leaves the heart without enough blood flow.

It is caused by the development of plaque in the arteries that could break open and develop a blood clot, which then obstructs the flow of blood through the artery. The plaque could be made up of fatty cells, cholesterol, and immune cells.

Once the heart is cut short of blood and oxygen, the heart muscle tissue begins to die and will not beat. This signifies a heart attack.

Meanwhile, Anna Beale Ph.D., a cardiologist, compared cardiac arrest and heart attack. She said that cardiac arrest is like an electrical failure, while a heart attack is like a plumbing problem.

Cardiac arrest is an electrical break down of the heart, which triggers the heart to stop beating. The fact is the heart beats progressively due to a natural pacemaker known as the sinoatrial node that sends electricity to it. There are also wiring cells in the heart that act in response to the signal by beating. Meanwhile, the His-Purkinje Network is a pathway of fiber that sends the impulse to the muscular walls of the ventricles. This makes them contract and lets the blood out of the heart to the lungs and body.

If there is a malfunction in the electrical system of the heart, it will stop beating. Then, the person stops breathing and loses consciousness. If there is no heart pumping blood to the body’s organs, the organs will fail and the person will die within minutes.

Dr. Haythe said that cardiac arrest is very serious and will lead to death without resuscitation. The automated external defibrillator (AED) is a device that can shock the heart into normal rhythm. This has been used in cardiac arrest survival rates.

The causes of cardiac arrest are heart rhythm problems, infection, trauma, pulmonary embolism, sepsis, and sometimes heart attack. Other causes of cardiac arrest include stroke, severe blood loss, electrocution, and drowning, according to Readers Digest.

Likewise, people must know the symptoms of the two medical conditions so as not to delay the treatment. A heart attack has symptoms such as chest pain or tightness may occur when resting or exerting effort. Some will also experience shortness of breath, pain down the arm, or numbness in the shoulder. Dr. Haythe said that heart attack could be treated with the medicine such as tenecteplase that could open the clot. One could also use the catheterization and stent placement if it is intense, according to Dr. Haythe.

The American Heart Association and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield unveil hands-only CPR training in Indianapolis.
CPR could be the immediate treatment for those who have cardiac arrest. [Image by Michael Hickey/Getty Images]

Meanwhile, Shephal Doshi, M.D., director of cardiac electrophysiology, said that the symptom of cardiac arrest is that a person might feel dizzy or light-headed and suddenly black out. He further said that immediate treatment must be performed such as CPR and shock with the defibrillator to jump-start the person’s heart followed by a breathing tube and other medicines or machines to support the heart.

On the other hand, stroke is different from the two conditions because it’s not in the heart, though it also deals with blood flow. Stroke is when part of the brain does not get blood. This causes the brain to shut down and die.

Its symptoms include sudden, severe headache, weakness, numbness, paralysis of the face, arm, or legs, confusion or difficulty with speech and understanding people, sudden vision changes and loss of balance, according to Lisa Baer R.N., B.S.N., nursing stroke coordinator at Baltimore’s Mercy Medical Center. For ischemic stroke, the treatment involves getting the blood clot and medicating TPA or surgery. For hemorrhagic stroke, one must control the bleeding by getting any blood thinners out of the body and managing the blood pressure.

It is advisable that if you or you know someone who has any symptoms of these conditions, you call 911 immediately or go to the nearest hospital. Do not delay and save lives!

[Featured Image by Wavebreakmedia/Thinkstock]