Don’t confuse a cardiac arrest and a heart attack !

Get to know the difference between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest to help victims

The terms "heart attack" and "sudden cardiac arrest" are often confused. These cardio-vascular problems can occur at home, at work, during physical activities without any warning signs.

Over 350 000 cardiac arrests occur in Europe every year*.

It can be really useful to learn the difference between both of these cardiac abnormalities in order to help victims quickly and efficiently.

What's a Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)?

For various reasons, the hearts goes into fibrillation: muscle fibers start contracting in a rapid and disordered way, which no longer ensures blood flow to the brain and the rest of the body.
This can result to a quick and unexplained death.

One of the causes of cardiac arrest can be a heart attack. Other non-cardiac causes may be drowning, electrification, intoxication, acute respiratory failure, etc.

SCA prevention is very difficult - a large majority of patient may have a heart condition that they are unfortunately unaware of. Don't forget to consult your doctor or cardiologist for a full check up.


  • Loss of consciousness
  • No pulse
  • No breathing

SCA can happen without any warning sign, but there are some particular signs that can occur before such as:

  • Chest pain
  • A lack of breath
  • General weakness, dizziness or palpitations
  • Nausea

What's a heart attack ?

The coronary arteries supply the heart with blood. A heart attack (or a myocardial infarction) occurs when a coronary artery is blocked or obstructed by a blood clot or fat deposits which prevents the proper blood flow to the heart.

People concerned can be:

  • Smokers
  • Those with a high diet saturated fat
  • Those with hypertension
  • Diabetics
  • Those with a family history of heart disease
  • Etc


  • Chest pain: a tight feeling to the the chest that can last for several minutes
  • Spread of chest pain to other areas (to the arms, maxilla, neck, back and abdomen)
  • A lack of breath
  • A cough
  • Distraction or vertigo
  • Sweat
  • A feeling of weakness
  • Strong palpitations

What you need to remember

A heart attack occurs when an artery is obstructed.
A cardiac arrest itself is the result of rapid and disordered contractions, no longer allowing the heart to fulfill its pump function.

What ever the reason might have been,  it is urgent to undertake the survival chain actions within minutes after the victim has collapsed to increase their chanches of survival.

Sources :

  • The French Federation of Cardiology
  • All Open to Massage
  • News Medical Net
  • Medisite

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