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Cardiac Arrest and Heart Attack: Know the Difference

Heart AttackHeart disease claimed more than 5,000 lives in Singapore last year. As a matter of fact, an average of 15 people die from this condition every day. This means that almost 1 out of 3 deaths in the country are due to cardiovascular problems.

Both cardiac arrests and heart attacks are medical emergencies that require immediate treatment. They are, however, not the same thing — contrary to popular belief. The following discussion explores the topic:

A ‘Circulation’ Problem

Heart attack, or myocardial infarction, is the second leading cause of death in the country after cancer. This happens when a blocked artery prevents blood from reaching a part of the heart, which may cause the heart muscle to become injured, or worse, die. Symptoms often include shortness of breath, mild intermittent chest discomfort, abdominal pain and overwhelming fatigue.

After a heart attack, BeHeartStrong.com.sg says heart bypass surgery is often one of the solutions used to remove and replace the damaged arteries in the heart. The longer a victim goes without the right treatment, the greater the damage. Unlike with cardiac arrest, the heart is still beating during a heart attack.

An ‘Electrical’ Problem

Statistics show that around 1,500 people experience sudden cardiac arrest annually, but only 3% survive. With bystander CPR treatment, though, a victim’s chance of survival may increase significantly.

Often without warning, cardiac arrest occurs suddenly when the heart malfunctions and then stops pumping blood around the body. A number of studies have explained that it is triggered by an electrical problem, which causes an irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia. After several seconds, a victim may lose consciousness and have no pulse. Without emergency treatment, death occurs within minutes.

As an article in The Huffington Post points out, ‘While heart attack is often described as a “plumbing problem,” sudden cardiac arrest is more of an “electrical problem” that prevents the heart from functioning effectively. Heart attacks can lead to sudden cardiac arrest, but there are many other causes as well, including congenital and electrophysiological abnormalities, severe heart failure, electrocution, and drug overdose’.

One can save a life by understanding the difference between a cardiac arrest and a heart attack. It is important to know the symptoms and the risk factors.

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