While most people use cardiac arrest and heart attack interchangeably, they are not the same. Let us tell you how they are different.

First let's start with Cardiac Arrest.  Cardiac Arrest is triggered by an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes the heart to not beat normally.  When the heart is not beating correctly, it cannot pump blood into the brain, lungs and other organs.  When this happens the person who is suffering from cardiac arrest becomes unresponsive, is not breathing or only gasping.  If the victim does not receive treatment, death can occur within minutes.

A Heart Attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked.  This is a circulation problem.  Blocked arteries prevent oxygen-rich blood from reaching a section of the heart.  If the blocked artery isn't re-opened quickly, that part of the heart, normally nurished by that artery, begins to die.  Symptoms of the heart attack could be immediate and may include intense discomfort in the chest or other areas of the upper body, shortness of breath, cold sweats, and/or nausea/vomiting.  More often, symptoms start slowly and persist for hours, days or weeks before the heart attack.  Unlike cardiac arrest, the heart usually does not stop beating during a heart attack.  The longer the person goes without treatment, the greater the damage to the heart.  Women, just so you know, the heart attack symptoms can be different for you than those in men.  Usually woman suffer from shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

In both events however, the first step of action is calling 9-1-1. 

Cardiac arrest can be reversible in some victims if it's treated within a few minutes.  If you find someone in cardiac arrest, the first step is to call 9-1-1 and start CPR right away.  Then, if an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) is available, use it as soon as possible.  We have placed 70 plus AED's all around our community.  By taking action quickly, you may be able to save someone's life.  If two people are available to help, have one person start CPR while the other person calls 9-1-1 and locates the AED. 

Even if you are not 100% sure you are having a heart attack, call 9-1-1 or your emergency response number.  It is best to call emergency response quickly, as every minute matters!  Emergency medical services can begin treatment right away when they arrive - which is at least an hour sooner than if someone arrives to the emergency room by car.  Also, patients with chest pain who arrive by ambulance usually receive faster treatment at the hospital.

Remeber, cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death.  Nearly 360,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur annually in the United States. 

Information from www.heart.org