What actually happens within the heart muscle during a Heart Attack and how is it different from a Cardiac Arrest? Many people still don’t fully understand the difference. We are here to help you get the facts straight!

Understanding the difference between the signs and symptoms of a Heart Attack and those of a Cardiac Arrest is crucial in order to provide the right kind of first aid in the case of an emergency!

A Heart Attack, or Myocardial Infarction, leads to a permanent damage of the heart muscle.

The heart muscle is supplied with blood and nutrients by the coronary arteries. Fatty buildup within the arteries causes their narrowing and loss of elasticity, also known as Atherosclerosis. This is the major cause of Coronary Artery Disease and leads to restricted blood and nutrient flow to the heart and other organs. When the arteries are so narrow, even a small blood clot can cause a complete blockage of the artery, permitting no blood to flow to the heart muscle.

There might not be any particular signs or symptoms of ongoing Atherosclerosis and therefore a Heart Attack might come outt of nowhere!

Infarction means ‘the death of tissue due to lack of blood supply’, and therefore a part of the heart muscle actually dies during a heart attack and becomes a scar tissue. The size of the scarring depends on the size of the artery which was blocked and the area of the heart which was supplied by this artery.

Although the heart might become weaker after a Heart Attack and can no longer pump as much blood as before, the heart is an incredible organ and even when a part is injured, the rest is still capable of working properly. 

A Cardiac Arrest is caused by the life threatening abnormal heart rhythm and causes the heart to fibrillate and eventually to stop pumping blood around the body and all the organs. The heart is able to beat rhythmically thanks to the electrical activity within. Fibrillation causes such a chaos in the electrical activity that the heart just stops pumping all together.

The electrical activity can be corrected by an electrical shock using a defibrillator in the ambulance, in the hospital or an automated defibrillator in public areas.

When a defibrillator is not anywhere near, it is important to keep the oxygen circulating around the body by performing CPR – 30 compressions followed by 2 rescue breaths! When the treatment is provided quick enough, it is possible to survive, however, every minute without treatment lowers the chances for survival by 7-10%.

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