Heart Attack or Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

Do you know the difference between a heart attack and Sudden Cardiac Arrest?  Most people think that these two terms can be used interchangeably.  The truth behind the matter is that a heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest are two completely different conditions; each with its’ own set of symptoms.

  

A heat attack can be referred to as a “plumbing” or “circulation” problem where a blockage occurs in the artery and prevents blood from traveling to the heart. Symptoms of a heart attack vary between males and females.  Symptoms typically include tightness and discomfort in the chest and/or back, difficulty breathing, and nausea or vomiting.  In most cases, symptoms of a heart attack are gradual and can last from hours to weeks before a heart attack actually occurs.  This means that during a heart attack, most people are conscious and have a pulse.  A heart attack can eventually lead into cardiac arrest if left untreated.
 
On the other hand, sudden cardiac arrest is known as an “electrical” problem where an electrical malfunction occurs in the heart and causes the rhythm of the heart to become irregular and chaotic.  Since the heart is not able to beat properly, the pumping action is disturbed, which prevents the blood from being pumped to vital organs such as the brain and the lungs.  This erratic rhythm can eventually lead to a “flat line” or no rhythm at all.
The scary, but true fact about sudden cardiac arrest is that there really are no symptoms.  When a person goes into cardiac arrest, they lose consciousness within seconds and become unresponsive, with no detectable pulse.  A sudden cardiac arrest victim has a 10-minute time-frame to be saved before brain damage sets in and in most cases death.  This critical time-frame is when high-quality CPR and an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) are needed the most.

 

An AED is a portable electronic device that is capable of delivering a shock to a cardiac arrest victim in order to help restore the electrical rhythm of the heart.  AEDs are becoming widely available in a majority of public places such as schools, malls, workplaces, fitness centers, recreational clubs, and churches to name a few.  AEDs are made for the typical bystander and are extremely easy to use by the general layperson that may happen to be at the site of a cardiac arrest emergency.  Anybody can use an AED with ease; even if a bystander has never taken a CPR class.  The AED will talk you through the entire rescue process with visual and audio prompts and guide you through the chain of survival.
 
So, just how important is high-quality CPR and an AED during a cardiac arrest rescue  Extremely important!  Research shows that the chances of survival if no care is administered before Emergency Medical Services (EMS) arrive is only 5%.  This rate increases to 9% if CPR is administered before EMS arrives.  And if you combine CPR with an AED, the survival rate spikes to 24%.
 
However, it is important to understand that only 50% of all sudden cardiac arrest victims will require an initial shock.  When the AED says, “No Shock Advised”, the only other option a rescuer has is to perform CPR in order to retrieve a shock-able heart rhythm.  After a cycle of CPR, the AED will reanalyze the victim and if a shock-able heart rhythm is detected, the AED will then be able to provide a shock.  This is why it is so critical for everybody to know at least the basics of CPR or at the least know how to perform hands-only CPR. Remember that doing compressions only is better than doing nothing at all!
The bottom line is that when a sudden cardiac arrest emergency occurs, bystanders need to be prepared to take action FAST by calling 9-1-1 and starting CPR, while another bystander retrieves an AED.  Your knowledge can end up saving a life.

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