Jack Miletic

The Differences Between Cardiac Arrest and a Heart Attack

Heart attacks and cardiac arrests are severe medical dangers impacting the heart. However, contrary to popular belief, they are not the same. Jack Miletic reports that understanding the differences between the two is vital in order to seek effective, quick treatment. After all, that’s the only way to increase the chances of a positive result.

The Characteristics of a Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart abruptly stops functioning and pumping blood around the body. It’s an unexpected scenario that can happen to anyone, including those who are typically fit and healthy. To boost the likelihood of survival, it requires near-immediate medical assistance.


Various circumstances can cause this heart issue. Most notably, nervous problems in the heart, like tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation. However, external forces like electrical shocks and water submersion can also lead to cardiac arrest.


Lack of pulse, immediate unconsciousness, and lack of breathing are typical signs of cardiac arrest.


If someone is having an episode of cardiac arrest, those around them should get in touch with a physician or a paramedic immediately. Provided they know what they’re doing, they should also begin CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).

Hands-only CPR is conducted by:

  1. Kneeling beside the person and placing the heel of a hand on the breastbone in the chest’s center.
  2. Putting the palm of the other hand on top of the hand on the chest, interlocking the fingers.
  3. Ensuring shoulders are directly above the hands.
  4. Using body weight to press straight down by 2 to 2.5 inches on the patient’s chest.
  5. Releasing the compression and allowing the chest to return to the original position.
  6. Repeating compressions at a rate of 100 to 120 times per minute until the ambulance arrives.

Paramedics and other health professionals use defibrillators to deliver electricity to the heart to regain normal pulses.

Jack Miletic

The Characteristics of a Heart Attack

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to a certain portion of the heart is obstructed, causing cardiac tissue injury.


Normally, heart attacks are caused by a buildup of plaque in the arteries, which rupture, leading to clots. High cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, a family history of heart disease, and high blood pressure are the primary risk factors for heart attacks.


Unlike cardiac arrests, heart attacks cause a variety of symptoms like:

  • Chest discomfort or aches
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Limb, back, neck, or jaw soreness

They often come with early warning signs, which aren’t necessarily immediately fatal like cardiac arrests.


Even though heart attacks aren’t instantly fatal, time is of the essence. Emergency medical help should be sought immediately to reduce the risk of cardiac damage. Treatments can include morphine, beta-blockers, statins, ACE inhibitors, clot busters, and other blood-thinning medications.

The Bottom Line

Essentially, the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest is that cardiac arrest is an instant loss of heart function, while a heart attack is caused by blood flow blockages or other underlying conditions. Though varying in severity, both require prompt medical attention and lifestyle changes.

By Jack Miletic

Jack Miletic