Cardiac Arrest Versus Heart Attack. How Do They Differ?
Indians are predisposed to heart disease.
Indians are predisposed to heart disease. (Photo: iStockphoto)

Cardiac Arrest Versus Heart Attack. How Do They Differ?

Former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj died on Tuesday night following a cardiac arrest, AIIMS hospital sources said. She was 67.

The veteran BJP leader was brought to AIIMS in a critical condition but soon passed away, sources said. Swaraj had been battling health issues for a while and had declined to contest this year’s Lok Sabha elections due to health issues.

However, her sudden demise has come as a shock to many. It’s also raised the question of what the word ‘cardiac arrest’ really means, what it implies and how is it different from a heart attack.

Dr Ashok Seth, Head of Cardiology at Fortis Hospitals, says that a person who looks healthy could also be living with blockage in their arteries.

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Also Read: Six Ways to Prevent Heart Disease in Your 20s

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When somebody dies due to a sudden cardiac arrest, it could be due to a heart attack or certain rhythm disturbances of the heart. Eight out of 10 times, a sudden heart attack is the reason for a cardiac arrest.
Dr Ashok Seth, Chairman, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute

The term cardiac arrest is used very vaguely. On rare occasions, a cardiac arrest can also happen because of a sudden bleed in the brain.

Dr Seth says the first question that arises in a situation like this is whether the person underwent the recommended annual cardiac check-ups. Such heart blockages only get picked up on the sophisticated cardiac tests advised to be had every year.

Indians are predisposed to coronary artery disease. Even when we are very particular about our exercise and well-being, we don’t know what is happening in the heart.

It’s important to remember, a cardiac arrest can happen even without a history of cardiac issues. Blockage of arteries starts giving symptoms only when it is at 80-90 percent. 25 percent of people even after having significant and severe blockages do not experience any discomfort.

Cardiac Arrest is Not Always the Same as a Heart Attack

While heart attack is caused by blockages in coronary arteries that prevent blood flow to the heart, according to Mayo Clinic, sudden cardiac arrest is the sudden, unexpected loss of heart function, breathing and consciousness. It could be a result of an electrical disturbance in your heart that disrupts its pumping action, stopping blood flow to the rest of your body.

In this case, your arteries may have no blockages at all. Its symptoms include:

  • No pulse
  • Sudden collapse
  • Lack of breathing
  • Loss of consciousness

Doctors say there are often other symptoms that precede it that are often ignored. These include fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, weakness, palpitations and vomiting.

But they also say that cardiac arrest may happen with no warning at all. In almost half of all such deaths, there is no known reason at all.

Doctors say there are often other symptoms that precede it that are often ignored. These include fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, weakness, palpitations and vomiting.

But they also say that cardiac arrest may happen with no warning at all. In almost half of all such deaths, there is no known reason at all.

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