Difference between heart attack and cardiac arrest

People often think that a heart attack is the same thing as a cardiac arrest. This, however, is not true. In order to understand the difference between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest, it is first necessary to understand what happens in both of these processes.

What is a heart attack?

The heart is a muscle, and like all muscles it requires an oxygen-rich blood supply. This is provided to the heart by coronary arteries. A heart attack occurs when there is a blockage of the coronary arteries. This is often caused by a blood clot. Such a blockage, if not quickly resolved, can cause parts of heart muscle to begin to die. 

What is a cardiac arrest?

A cardiac arrest is different to a heart attack. In a cardiac arrest the heart actually stops beating; whereas in a heart attack the heart normally continues to beat even though the blood supply to the heart is disrupted. 

Symptoms of a heart attack and of cardiac arrest

In addition to the physiological mechanism being different, the symptoms of a heart attack and a cardiac arrest also vary.

Symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Chest pain – this is often a feeling of tightness in the center of the chest which may last for several minutes and will not decrease upon resting (although the most common symptom of a heart attack, not all patients having a heart attack will experience chest pain)
  • Spreading of chest pain to other areas, most commonly to the arms, jaw, neck, back and abdomen
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Feeling or being sick
  • Anxiety
  • Light-headedness or dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Weakness
  • Palpitations (noticeable heartbeats)

Symptoms of a cardiac arrest include:

  • Sudden loss of consciousness/responsiveness
  • No breathing
  • No pulse 

The lack of pulse is caused by the heart actually stopping during a cardiac arrest. As a consequence of this, the organs of the body are deprived of blood – this can lead to death. 

The following warning signs may also occur in the period before a cardiac arrest:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Palpitations
  • Nausea 

Causes of heart attacks and cardiac arrests

Cardiac arrests have several potential causes. These include:

  • Ventricular fibrillation – an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) where the lower chambers of the heart (the ventricles) beat irregularly
  • Ventricular tachycardia
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Changes of the heart structure
  • Pacemaker failure
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Choking
  • Drowning
  • Electrocution
  • Hypothermia
  • Dramatic drop in blood pressure
  • Drug abuse
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • An unknown reason

A cardiac arrest can also be caused by a heart attack. In fact, according to the British Heart Foundation, the majority of cardiac arrests in the UK are caused by heart attacks. 

A heart attack itself involves a cut off in the blood supply to part of the heart muscle. If a large enough portion of the heart is affected, then the heart may stop beating, i.e. a cardiac arrest may occur.

But what about heart attacks themselves? What causes them? Well, in contrast to cardiac arrests, heart attacks are generally caused by one main factor – coronary heart disease (CHD).  CHD is a condition that is generally caused by fatty deposits building up in the coronary arteries, which provide oxygenated blood to the heart. This is also known as atherosclerosis.  Those most at risk of CHD include:

  • Smokers
  • Those who eat an unhealthy diet – one that is high in saturated fat
  • Those with high blood pressure
  • Those with diabetes
  • Overweight or obese people
  • People who do not exercise frequently
  • Older people, in particularly older men
  • Those with a family history of heart disease
  • People who have been exposed to air pollution, particularly traffic pollution

People with CHD may experience a heart attack if a plaque, (a raised patch on the artery wall) splits and causes a blood clot which in turn blocks the coronary artery. 

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New ‘Smart Stent’ Can Detect Narrowing of Arteries

Researchers have developed a type of “smart stent” that monitors even subtle changes in the flow of blood through the artery, detecting the narrowing in its earliest stages and making early diagnosis and treatment possible.

‘Smart stent that uses medical-grade stainless steel and looks similar to most commercial stents can help detect narrowing of arteries.’

For every three individuals who have had a stent implanted to keep clogged arteries open and prevent a heart attack, at least one would experience restenosis — the renewed narrowing of the artery due to plaque buildup or scarring — which can lead to additional complications.
The researchers believe that the smart stent could help doctors monitor their patient’s health more easily.

The device prototype was successfully tested in the lab and in a swine model, according to a study published in the journal Advanced Science.

“We modified a stent to function as a miniature antenna and added a special micro-sensor that we developed to continuously track blood flow,” said Kenichi Takahata, Professor at University of British Columbia in Canada.

“The data can then be sent wirelessly to an external reader, providing constantly updated information on the artery’s condition,” Takahata said.

The device uses medical-grade stainless steel and looks similar to most commercial stents.

It can be implanted using current medical procedures without modifications, the researchers said.

“Putting a smart stent in place of a standard one can enable physicians to monitor their patient’s health more easily and offer treatment, if needed, in a timely manner,” said research collaborator York Hsiang, Professor at University of British Columbia.


Picture Credit:University of British Columbia 

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Deaths due to cardiovascular disease up in rural areas of India: Study

While cardiovascular disease is the cause of over a quarter of Indian deaths each year, in a counter-intuitive trend, the mortality rates for rural populations due to this condition have surpassed those in urban areas, according to a new study, published on Friday.

The study is titled “Divergent trends in ischaemic heart disease and stroke mortality in India from 2000 to 2015: a nationally representative mortality study”. Cardiovascular disease caused 2.1 million deaths in India in 2015, over a fourth of the total. For those aged between 30 and 69 years, nearly 70% of the deaths were due to ischaemic heart disease — caused by narrowing of the arteries, a condition that often culminates in fatal heart attacks.

For that age bracket, the probability of dying from that cause increased from 10.4% to 13.1% for men and from 4.8% to 6.6% for women. “Although ischaemic heart disease mortality at ages 30–69 years was lower in rural areas compared with urban areas at the start of the study, rural rates rose rapidly, surpassing urban rates by 2015 in both sexes,” the study found.

“The assumption is that urbanisation is leading to rising rates of heart disease. But in fact, what we showed is that it’s the rural areas of India that had an increase in ischaemic heart disease mortality. In the urban areas, it’s been flat or there’s been a modest decline. That suggests a significant role for untreated hypertension or undertreated diabetes,” Prabhat Jha, director of the Centre for Global Health Research at St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and senior author of the study said.

This research is based on data from the Million Death Study, a large-scale exercise that has been in progress in India since 2001 and was conducted in collaboration with the Registrar General of India and medical agencies in the country.

Another significant finding was that younger adults, especially those born after 1970, have the highest rate of death due to heart problems caused by narrowing of the heart’s arteries.

“As India has gotten fatter, including in the urban and rural areas, hypertension and diabetes have increased substantially, but the treatment for those have lagged behind. That might be what’s at play here,” Jha said.

The study also examined prevalence of death due to stroke and found “the probability of dying from stroke decreased overall, but increased in India’s North-Eastern states, where a third of premature stroke deaths occurred and only one sixth of (India’s) population lives.


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What is the difference between heart attack and cardiac arrest?

One of the most prolific and beloved political figures of India, Sushma Swaraj suffered a massive cardiac on Tuesday night and left the whole country in grief. The untimely death of the former foreign minister has triggered a wave of shock and disbelief with emotional tributes pouring in from all the sects of the society.

The BJP leader, 67, was taken to Delhi’s AIIMS hospital and rushed straight away to the emergency ward in an extremely critical condition. While we come in terms with the sudden demise of the popular people’s leader, here is detailed break-down of the difference between heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest.
A lot of media outlets are using the terms heart attack and cardiac arrest interchangeably, mistaking it to be the same disease, but they are not. To understand the difference between the two, it is important to know what exactly happens in the body during both heart attack and cardiac arrest.
What is a heart attack?
A heart attack happens when there is a blockage in the coronary arteries. They are the blood vessels which supply blood to the cardiac muscle. Since the heart is a muscle, it requires oxygen-rich blood to function. A blockage in the coronary arteries causes a heart attack as the blood flow to the cardiac muscle is stopped. If the blocked coronary arteries are not opened quickly, the heart muscles may start dying.

What is cardiac arrest?
A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops beating altogether. It is triggered by an electric malfunction in the heart, which further results in an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). This is the primary difference between the two, as in case of heart attack, the heart still keeps beating even if the blood supply is blocked to the cardiac muscle.
What happens after a cardiac arrest?
Since the heart stops beating, it may result in unconsciousness, no breathing and no pulse. Death due to cardiac arrest may occur within just a few minutes if prompt treatment is not provided.

Risk factor for heart attack
Those at the most risk for a heart attack are:
1. Overweight or obese people
2. A family history of heart diseases
3. High blood pressure
4. Diabetes
5. Lack of physical exercise
6. A sedentary lifestyle

Risk factors for cardiac arrest
1. Usage of recreational drugs
2. Heart medications
3. Damage to the heart muscle
4. Heart rhythm abnormalities

The bottom line
To reduce the risk of cardiac arrest, it is crucial that you get routine checkups and heart screenings done. In case of a cardiac arrest, it is extremely important to act as soon as possible as prompt action can actually save a life. Start doing CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation) right away till the time emergency services do not arrive.

In the case of a heart attack, call an ambulance straight away and begin CPR if the patient has become unconscious. You may give the person an aspirin tablet (unless the doctor has prescribed otherwise).


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How blood pressure affects the heart

A pulse indicates life. The pulse, the breath and the pumping of the heart is the center of one’s existence And so it goes without saying that monitoring the pressure with which the blood comes through your veins is of utmost importance .Hypertension is a condition that sees a higher pressure in the blood that circulates through the body as the heart pumps and also is the pressure when the heart rests between two beats.

Over a period of time , a higher than usual pressure can damage arterial walls making it prone to fat deposits. This causes thickening of the vessels that carry blood which if unattended to could manifest as heart and brain damage.

Not just this, hypertension could be the cause of erectile dysfunction, poor memory, dementia, kidney damage, and osteoporosis and this long list can be alarming . I don’t mean to build up your pressure but you must also know that 1/3 Indians embody this horrific disease. Hence it is an urgent need to build awareness of how to control blood pressure, better still adapt life style steps to reduce its potential risk. To know is one and to apply is another. Just like a brilliant idea holds little credibility without application. So while I take the first step, I will hope with positivity that you’ll take the next next most important steps.

Learn to recognize the possible symptoms
-Severe head aches
-Chest pain
-Difficulty breathing
-Irregular heartbeat
-Pounding in the neck, chest or ears
-Awareness is essential to recognize that something may be a miss with your body . Develop body awareness and you may be able to percent 70% of the compromising body conditions that you face potential risk of.

Life style changes to rule over hypertension
1. Salt doesn’t help, Sodium intake needs to come down to not more than ½ tsp. per day which is equivalent of 1500mg sodium/day which is great control for the hypertensive ones.
2. Minimize /Avoid intake of processed food which inevitably contains copious amount of sodium.
3. Lose your belly circumference .Men that have waists above 40 and women above 15 are at risk of increased blood pressure.
4. Reduce alcohol to not more than 3-4 servings /week .Alcohol could reduce even the effectiveness of medicine.

5.”Don’t increase my blood pressure or I’ll burst “ is a common statement in heated arguments. There couldn’t be more truth in this idiom. Chronic stress can raise your blood pressure frequently and keep it elevated producing a surge of hormones that raise your blood pressure. Recurring episodes will keep the BP elevated, finally inducing classic hypertension.

Get help and support from your environment. Love and care help like nothing else, like no medicine can.

-Pomegranate juice, berries, red beet, dairy, salmon, oatmeal and dark chocolate are precious foods that can help regulate blood pressure. Use these in your salad or as snacks regularly and alternatively to gain better control over your BP.
-Judiciously use potassium rich foods like bananas, avocado, cantaloupe, mushrooms, tomatoes, tuna and beans to help puncture your raising blood pressure.
-Vit C rich foods like oranges, kiwi, guava, lemon can significantly reduce blood pressure with constant use.

-Garlic, dark green leafy veggies, beets, nuts and seeds can boost the production of nitric oxide which dilates and relaxes the blood vessels which turns magic on in the regulation of blood pressure!!
-Certain supplements like hawthorn berry and celery extracts can clearly help regulate blood pressure but like with all supplements, speak to your medical practitioner before using any of these.
-Fermented foods help replenish the wealth of beneficial bacteria in your gut which improves digestion and thus helps control your blood pressure. But be aware that certain fermented veggies may have far too much salt that could be counterproductive. So stick to ferments that are lower in salt, better still make your own ferment, it requires little skill but some patience.

Invest in your health and your heart. Controlling your blood pressure is the primary step in keeping your heart beating strong and your brain protected. Simple lifestyle rules that are reinforced time and again are worth your while, use these to keep you happy, healthy and wise!


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Why heart attacks are more prevalent in winters

According to a study seasonal-dependent behaviours such as reduced physical activity and dietary changes could also play a role in the increased occurrence of heart attack during colder weather.

The body responds to cold by constricting superficial blood vessels, which decreases thermal conduction in the skin and subsequently increases arterial blood pressure. Other responses are shivering and increased heart rate, which raise the metabolic rate and in turn increase body temperature.

The risk of suffering a heart attack is more likely to peak in the winter season and decline in summers because air temperature acts as an external trigger for the life threatening disease, an analysis has shown. The findings revealed that the average number of heart attacks per day was significantly higher during colder temperatures as compared to warmer.
When the daily temperature dropped to less than zero degree Celsius, the average rate of heart attacks a day peaked to four, as compared to when it was above 10 degrees. Furthermore, the occurrence of heart attacks increased with higher wind velocities, limited sunshine duration and higher air humidity.

“There is seasonal variation in the occurrence of heart attack, with incidence declining in summer and peaking in winter,” said lead author Moman A. Mohammad, from the Lund University in Sweden. “Our results consistently showed a higher occurrence of heart attacks in sub-zero temperatures. The findings were the same across a large range of patient subgroups, and at national as well as regional levels, suggesting that air temperature is a trigger for heart attacks,” Mohammad added.
The body responds to cold by constricting superficial blood vessels, which decreases thermal conduction in the skin and subsequently increases arterial blood pressure. Other responses are shivering and increased heart rate, which raise the metabolic rate and in turn increase body temperature, the researchers explained.

“In the majority of healthy people these mechanisms are well tolerated. But in people with atherosclerotic plaques in their coronary arteries they may trigger a heart attack,” Mohammad noted. Respiratory tract infections and influenza are also known risk factors for heart attack that have a clear seasonal variation.
“In addition, seasonal-dependent behaviours such as reduced physical activity and dietary changes could also play a role in the increased occurrence of heart attack during colder weather,” Mohammad said.

The results were presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Barcelona. For the study, the team investigated the association between heart attack incidence and weather conditions such as air temperature, sunshine duration, precipitation, and air pressure in more than 2,80,000 patients.


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A good way to assess the risk of heart attack

According to a new study, measuring calcium build-up in the arteries can be a good way of assessing the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Measuring calcium build-up in the arteries can be a good way of assessing the risk of heart attack and stroke, according to a recent study.

Patients without calcium buildup in the coronary arteries had significantly lower risk of future heart attack or stroke despite other high risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or bad cholesterol levels, the research from UT Southwestern cardiologists showed. These individuals had less than a 3 % chance of a cardiovascular event over the next decade, even though many had well-known risk factors, well below the 7.5 % level set by the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association as a guideline to begin statin treatment.

“The event rates when coronary calcium is absent are low,” said preventive cardiologist Dr Parag Joshi. “Our findings suggest that individuals with no calcium buildup in their blood vessels may not have to take statins despite the presence of other risk factors that cause coronary disease.” There may still be other reasons statins are a good therapy, so Joshi said that the new findings suggest that adding a CT scan for calcium may be worthwhile as doctors and patients discuss treatment options.

“A CT scan is a test that is easily done, costs about 100 bucks in most major cities, and can give a lot more information about the patient’s 10-year risk,” said Joshi. Calcium accumulates in the arteries of the heart after plaque builds up and calcifies over time.

The UT Southwestern researchers looked at CT scans of the chest and heart of 6,184 people aged 45 to 84, who had never had a heart attack or stroke, and were participants in a large, multi-site, multi-year study known as MESA (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis). The new findings appear online in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Cardiovascular Imaging.


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