Telling Apart a Heart Attack, Cardiac Arrest and Stroke

Sometimes, it can be easy to think of all kinds of cardiovascular events as one and the same. However, whether you are already aware of that or not, there are big differences between a heart attack, stroke and sudden cardiac arrest. In fact, all three have different causes, distinctive consequences and manifestations, and thus need to be recognized and treated differently so that the patient can get the fastest and most effective first aid assistance.cpr-training

Today we want you to learn about all three of these cardiovascular events.

  1. A heart attack happens when the circulation of oxygenated blood to the heart is blocked. Without the oxygen, the cardiac muscle starts to die, provoking the heart attack. The heart itself, however, continues beating.

The symptoms include chest pain, discomfort or tightness, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, cold sweats and body aches.

The best way to proceed is to make the person comfortable and call 911 as soon as possible.

  1. Cardiac arrest happens when the heart’s electrical system becomes overwhelmed by activity. In sudden cardiac arrest, the heartbeat can become erratic, slow down or stop completely. It usually causes the blood flow to the other organs and the brain to stop. Cardiac arrest can be a consequence of a heart attack, and it can lead to death in under 10 minutes if left untreated.

The symptoms of cardiac arrest include unconsciousness, turning blue, labored or absent breathing and of course, having no pulse.

The basic course of action in a case of cardiac arrest is to call 911 and follow instructions or to start basic CPR if you or anyone around knows how to perform it correctly. A defibrillator would be the best bet, but it’s somewhat doubtful you’d have one around and that you could operate it without risking the patient’s life.

  1. A stroke also deals with blood flow, but it happens in the brain rather than the heart. It can be caused by lack of oxygen to the brain provoked by a blocked or temporarily malfunctioning artery, but it can also be the result of a hemorrhage caused by a broken blood vessel, much like when an aneurysm bursts.

A stroke can present several symptoms, but some of the most recognizable are the numbness and weakness of the body, confusion, difficulty seeing, walking, talking or swallowing, and an extreme headache.

The best course of action when dealing with a stroke is to call 911 immediately, as timing is essential in such cases. Meanwhile, you should try and note all of the symptoms and their timing, in order to help the medics understand the clinical picture.