The Difference Between A Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest

Heart attack and cardiac arrest are terms that are often used interchangeably; however, the two are very different life-threatening emergencies.  A heart attack is best described as a circulation problem, while a cardiac arrest is described as an electrical problem.

A heart attack or myocardial infarction occurs when blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart is severely reduced or blocked.  This blockage can be caused by the buildup of cholesterol, fat deposits, or other substances in the coronary arteries. The decreased flow of blood and oxygen to the heart muscle can lead to severe damage or death. The most common symptoms of a heart attack are:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, back, arm, shoulder, or stomach
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness

Time is of the essence when treating a heart attack. Each minute that goes by can result in more damage to the heart.  Emergency treatment, which includes medications, surgery, or a combination of both, is needed to restore the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart.

Cardiac arrest occurs when there is an electrical malfunction of the heart that causes it to stop pumping blood to other parts of the body. This can result in the loss of consciousness or death if not treated quickly.   The signs of a cardiac arrest are immediate and can include:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Collapsing suddenly
  • Not breathing or gasping for air

Treatment for cardiac arrest should be immediate. Cardiac arrest may be reversed if CPR is performed, and a defibrillator shocks the heart to restore a normal rhythm within a few minutes.  Emergency treatment is needed to treat complications that may have resulted from cardiac arrest.

Jamaica Hospital Medical Center is recognized as a Primary Heart Attack Center by The Joint Commission and the American Heart Association. This certification reflects the hospital’s commitment to providing a high standard of cardiac care to heart attack patients.

Jamaica Hospital’s Cardiology Department cardiology takes pride in providing patients with the very best in heart health care. Our experts provide a wide range of inpatient and outpatient cardiovascular services for those with known or suspected diseases of the heart and blood vessels. To schedule an appointment with our cardiologists, please call 718-206-7100.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.