What's The Difference Between A Heart Attack And Cardiac Arrest?

Cardiovascular diseases are familiar to many of us because they are the most common cause of death worldwide, taking the lives of nearly 18 million people each year (per World Health Organization). Nearly 700,000 of these deaths take place in the United States, making cardiovascular diseases responsible for 25% of American deaths, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That being said, sometimes the terminology can get a bit confusing, an example being the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest. It may be tempting to assume that the latter is just a more clinical term for the former, but there really is a drastic difference between the two.

A heart attack happens when a blocked artery stops blood from reaching part of the heart. This is a very serious event, but Harvard Health Publishing notes that at least 90 percent of victims survive if given proper treatment.

Heart attacks may lead to cardiac arrest

While some heart attacks have no symptoms (per CDC), this is not the case for cardiac arrest. Simply put, a cardiac arrest is when a person's heart stops, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). First, an electrical malfunction disrupts the person's heartbeat, which then stops the heart from pumping blood to the lungs, brain, and other organs. Ultimately, the person's heart stops beating and they will fall unconscious, and then die within minutes if they don't receive immediate treatment.

The AHA says that if someone has a cardiac arrest, you need to call emergency medical services immediately, then use an automated external defibrillator (if one is available) and perform CPR until they arrive. Following these steps will boost the person's chance of survival from 10% to 90%, according to Cleveland Clinic.

Of course, seeking medical care is also very important if a person has a heart attack, especially since a heart attack can lead to cardiac arrest if left untreated, says the AHA.