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Cardiac arrest vs. heart attack.

Q A friend of mine says that cardiac arrest and heart attack are the same thing--is he right?

A Although the terms are often used interchangeably, cardiac arrest is different from a heart attack. However, cardiac arrest can be caused by a heart attack.

A heart attack happens if a narrowing or blockage in one of the coronary arteries impedes or stops blood flow to that part of the heart--this starves the area of oxygen, and tissue damage occurs. You'll remain conscious, and experience symptoms like nausea and chest pain that may spread to your shoulder and arm.

Cardiac arrest is caused by an electrical disturbance in the heart--it happens suddenly, and you'll likely lose consciousness.The heart's pumping ability relies on electrical impulses generated by the sinus node, an area of specialized cells in the right upper chamber (atrium) of your heart. Each electrical impulse travels through both upper chambers of the heart, stimulating them to contract and squeeze blood into the lower chambers (ventricles). The impulse then passes through the AV node (in the middle of the heart, between the upper and lower chambers), before spreading through the ventricles so they also contract to pump blood out of your heart and into your body. In a healthy heart this cycle constantly repeats itself, but certain conditions (including a heart attack) can disrupt it. If this happens, the steady beat of your heart can become irregular, and either speed up or slow down. In some cases this arrhythmia is harmless, and rights itself--but sometimes it can cause a cardiac arrest.

Bruce Darrow, MD, PhD


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Title Annotation:ASK THE EXPERTS
Author:Darrow, Bruce
Publication:Focus on Healthy Aging
Date:Jan 1, 2018
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