Heart Attack Vs Heart Failure Vs Cardiac Arrest: Know The Key Differences Between The Three

We must have heard people saying that someone suffered from an heart attack, cardiac arrest or heart failure. People tend to use these terms reciprocally but there is a fundamental difference between them. All of them are different cardiac emergencies. And, all these diseases are linked to problems in your heart but they are 3 different heart conditions. They can be fatal but they have varying causes and treatment. This article will help you understand the differences between them. Onlymyhealth editorial team spoke to Dr Praveen Chandra, Chairman - Interventional & Structural Heart Cardiology, Interventional Cardiology , Heart Institute, Medanta - The Medicity, about heart attack, heart failure and cardiac arrest.

Heart attack

A person suffering from heart attack is taken to the emergency immediately, to remove the blockage and restart the flow of blood to heart muscles.

Heart attack symptoms

heart attack

The warning signs of heart attack can start from upto a week ago, causing chest pain and shortness of breath. A person may also feel tired from weeks ago. This mostly happens in the case of plague build up. If heart attack occurs due to blood clot, the symptoms can be sudden. During a heart attack, a person might feel pinching pain in chest and pain usually extends to your left arm. In some cases, it may also extend to the jaws and back.

Heart attack causes

When a person suffers from heart attack, there is some kind of blockage in blood flow. This can happen due to a blood clot. Another reason of heart attack could be blockage of arteries due to plague build up. Heart muscles need oxygen to pump blood to other parts of the body. Due to the blockage, muscles start to die.

Heart attack treatment

1. Defibrillation

A device named defibrillator is used to give an electric shock to restore the normal heart beat.

2. Medicines

Various medicines are given to the patient to thin down blood and lower blood pressure. Anti coagulants are given to the patient. Along with medicines, certain lifestyle changes are also required.

3. Surgeries

In extreme cases where the plague buildup is too much, a person might need to undergo a surgery like angioplasty. In cases where the blockage is not that bad, doctors might put a stunt in your vessels to keep them wide open.

Cardiac arrest

cardiac arrest

Cardiac arrest is the sudden loss of heart functions and it needs emergency care. The patient is rushed to the hospital and it can prove to be fatal if the patient is not rushed to the emergency immediately.

Cardiac arrest symptoms

Cardiac arrest doesn't have any prior symptoms, but the heart just stops functioning. A person might experience chest pain. The most distinguished symptom of cardiac arrest is unconsciousness and light headed feeling.

Cardiac arrest causes

The main difference between heart attack and cardiac arrest is that heart attack occurs due to some kind of balance while cardiac arrest there is a problem with the heart's electrical functioning which can cause the heart to stop abruptly. Sometimes, there is a possibility that a heart attack triggers cardiac arrest.

Cardiac arrest treatment

1. CPR

Cardio pulmonary resuscitation is necessary to keep the person alive while we reach for medical help. This can be done both manually or by using a defibrillator. Sometimes, trachial incubation is also required for survival of the patient.

2. Medications

Certain medications are given to the patients to control the situation. Antiarrhythmic to sync the heart beats, if the cause of cardiac arrest is neurological. Certain medications are given to stabilise blood pressure.

3. Catherization

If the underlying cause of a heart attack is that a nerve that is blocked, a catheter (a tube like structure) is used to treat the blood vessel.

Heart failure

heart failure

As the name suggests, heart fails to perform its function. Heart failures can be classified into 4 stages - first stage means that you are on high risk and later stage represents complete failure.

Heart failure symptoms

Heart failure is usually an ongoing process. It can also be acute due to some other underlying issues. Symptoms of heart failure are more gradual than heart attack and heart arrest. A person might experience shortness of breath, edema and increased number of visits to the bathroom during night. A person might also feel that their heartbeat becomes irregular.

Heart failure causes

Heart failure can happen due to various underlying diseases like infections and blood clots or due to issues with the heart itself. Sometimes, the valves become faulty resulting in decreased flow of blood. Diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure increase the chances of failure. Failure can be both systolic or diastolic. It happens due to weakening or stiffness in heart muscles. Mostly heart failure arises from the malfunction of left ventricle. A healthy heart pumps around 50% more blood to body.

Heart failure treatment

1. Lifestyle changes

Simple changes in our lifestyle can save us from fatal diseases like heart failure. Quitting smoking, and switching to low sodium diet can significantly reduce the risks. A person should also involve himself in some kind of physical exercises to strengthen heart muscles as per the advice of the doctor.

2. Medications

Various medications are given to the patient to treat the underlying problem. Certain medicines are given to balance the blood pressure. Doctor might also need to prescribe diuretics, anti anginals as per the condition of the person.

3. Medical procedures

Various procedures might need to be conducted as we understand the main cause of the problem:

  • Cardian resyncronisation therapy- A pacemaker is used to synchronize right and left part of the heart so that they can pump blood simultaneously.
  • Implant of defibrillator- In this case, a device is inserted near the heart of abdomen, so that in a case where heart stops beating or there is an irregular beating, it can give a shock to restart it.
  • Surgeries- In case there is any kind of blockage, a bypass surgery might be needed. More complex surgeries are done in case a problem arises with the opening and closing of the valve.

Now, we are aware that these three medical conditions are radically different from each other. Arrests can be sudden, and failures are usually more prolonged. Symptoms might be similar because the end result is that the blood flow is disturbed, but they have different causes, and different kinds of treatment are given for all three of them.


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