Cardiac Arrest or Heart Attack? – Symptoms, Risks, Emergency Treatment

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Most people confuse cardiac arrest with heart attack and visa-versa. While the two terms are used interchangeably, they are not the same.

Cardiac Arrest v/s Heart Attack

Cardiac arrest is the condition that occurs when your heart stops functioning all of a sudden or has an irregular rhythm. It is an electrical malfunction caused in the heart that prevents the heart from pumping blood. This causes irregular heartbeat and disrupts the supply of blood to your brain, lungs and other organs.

On the other hand, heart attack is a problem related to blood circulation. It occurs when a blocked artery prevents the flow of blood to that particular section of your heart. If not reopened quickly, that portion of your heart would begin to die in the lack of oxygen-rich blood.

While both conditions can be severely alarming, a heart attack can sometimes be a mild one. However, a cardiac arrest may lead to sudden death if the heart stops completely and isn’t given immediate attention.

Are You at a Risk?

You may be at a risk of heart diseases, cardiac arrest or a heart attack, if you:

  • Have a family history of heart failure, a massive heart attack or a cardiac arrest
  • Experience unusual heart rate or rhythm
  • Faint due to an unknown cause
  • Have had a heart attack previously
  • Are a male, above 45 years of age or a female, above 55 years of age
  • Have high cholesterol or high blood pressure
  • Have Type 2 Diabetes


In case of a cardiac arrest, you gasp for breath and may turn unresponsive within minutes. Some also feel dizzy or light-headed and then suddenly pass out. If not treated immediately, cardiac arrest can cause death.

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During a heart attack, you may witness:

  • chest pain or tightness (angina pain)
  • intense discomfort in the chest or other parts of the upper body
  • shortness of breath
  • nausea or vomiting

In most cases, you may discover symptoms of a heart attack a few hours, days or weeks in advance. You should consult a cardiologist as soon as you face any of these. The more you delay, the greater damage it can cause to your heart and overall health.


Cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death. It can be reversed if the patient is treated immediately with CPR, where a shock is used to jump-start the person’s heart.

Sadly, only a less than 8% people survive a cardiac arrest outside the hospital.

Though treated using an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), you can also save your loved one’s life by giving them a CPR immediately until the ambulance arrives. See this instructional video to know how to give a hands-only CPR to someone suffering from cardiac arrest.

Heart attack occurs due to a blockage and can be treated with medicines like tenecteplase that can open the clot in your artery. If the condition is severe, you might have to go for a cardiac surgery.

At PSRI Heart Institute, we provide the most advanced and effective heart treatments, from preventive care to complex surgeries. We also provide dedicated air ambulance services for cardiac emergencies.

Book an appointment with our qualified cardiologists and cardiac surgeons at+91-9582261502

Know more about our heart care department at

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