Do you know the difference between a heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest? People often use these terms interchangeably, but they are not synonyms. A heart attack is when blood flow to the heart is blocked, and sudden cardiac arrest is when the heart malfunctions and suddenly stops beating unexpectedly. A heart attack is a “circulation” problem and sudden cardiac arrest is an “electrical” problem.
A heart attack occurs when a blocked artery prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching a section of the heart. If the blocked artery is not reopened quickly, the part of the heart normally nourished by that artery begins to die. The longer a person goes without treatment, the greater the damage. Symptoms of a heart attack may be immediate and intense. More often, though, symptoms start slowly and persist for hours, days or weeks before a heart attack. Unlike with sudden cardiac arrest, the heart usually does not stop beating during a heart attack. The heart attack symptoms in women can be different than men.
Sudden cardiac arrest occurs suddenly and often without warning. It is triggered by an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). With its pumping action disrupted, the heart cannot pump blood to the brain, lungs and other organs. Seconds later, a person loses consciousness and has no pulse. Death occurs within minutes if the victim does not receive treatment.
Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death – nearly 400,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur annually in the United States. The best chance of survival for a victim of sudden cardiac arrest is CPR. You can double or even triple a victim’s chance of survival by administering CPR and using an Automated External Defibrillator (AED).
Our state can be the next to join 19 other states across the nation that require CPR training as a high school graduation requirement. Every year we would be placing thousands of life-savers into our communities who are trained to do CPR. To learn more about Hands Only CPR visit our website www.heart.org/handsonlycpr.