Heart attack vs cardiac arrest

Posted on 19 March 2013

Dr Shirley Middlemost, cardiologist at Mediclinic Hermanus, explains the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest.

What is cardiac arrest?
‘With cardiac arrest, the heart will stop beating. It’s not pumping, not ejecting blood,’ explains Dr Middlemost. ‘This could happen to anybody – even a young patient or an active sportsman.’

What is a heart attack?
A heart attack, meanwhile, happens when an artery is blocked or occluded. ‘Here your heart could be pumping away, but the blood can’t move through the artery,’ Dr Middlemost says. ‘A heart attack is usually caused by risk factors like high cholesterol, smoking or family history, and we’ll treat it with a clot buster or arterial stent, which opens up the artery and lets the blood flow again.’

But remember, a heart attack could lead to cardiac arrest. ‘So while they’re completely different, that’s where you can find a connection,’ says Dr Middlemost.

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The information provided in this article was correct at the time of publishing. At Mediclinic we endeavour to provide our patients and readers with accurate and reliable information, which is why we continually review and update our content. However, due to the dynamic nature of clinical information and medicine, some information may from time to time become outdated prior to revision.

Published in Cardiology

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