If you’re experiencing chest pain, it’s important not to let it linger and seek medical attention immediately. Both heart attack and cardiac arrest are serious conditions; the terms are often used interchangeably but are different. Let’s discuss them in detail; heart attack vs. cardiac arrest – the difference.

Heart Attack

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is obstructed, causing damage to the heart muscles. More often than not, the most common symptom seen in such a situation is chest pain, or discomfort felt in the arms, neck, jaw, back, etc. Other than that, signs like shortness of breath, nausea, cold sweats, lightheadedness, etc., are seen too.

Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac arrest vs. a heart attack is a sudden loss of heart function. This results in patients stopping breathing and losing consciousness within a matter of seconds. Many factors contribute to this issue, such as an electrical impulse problem in the heart or a heart attack; however, this phenomenon is not the same as a heart attack.

Heart attack vs. Cardiac arrest

Heart attack and cardiac arrest are different medical conditions, but both of them are life-threatening. Forget the fact that they sound similar; they are not the same. Here are the main differences between heart attack and cardiac arrest:

Condition Entirely

A heart attack occurs due to a block in one or more blood vessels that supply deoxygenated blood to the heart. On the other hand, cardiac arrest is an unexpected loss of heart function, mainly caused by an electrical disturbance in the heart.

Root Cause

Heart attacks are usually stimulated due to a buildup of fat deposits in the arteries (blood vessels). At the same time, cardiac arrest is often caused by an unknown underlying heart condition or a sudden trauma.


The symptoms of a heart attack are chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, and lightheadedness. In contrast, sudden collapse, no pulse, and loss of consciousness are major makers of cardiac arrest.

Treatment Type

The treatment for a heart attack mainly revolves around medication, lifestyle modification, and sometimes surgery. On the flip side, a cardiac arrest situation requires immediate medical attention, including CPR and defibrillation.

Survival rates

The survival rate for a heart attack is relatively high if treated promptly, and people usually make a full recovery. However, in the case of cardiac arrest, the survival rate is much lower, i.e., with only 10% of affectees surviving outside of a hospital.

Heart Emergency: Call 911

Here is some general information on how to deal with a heart emergency.

  • Call 911 for emergency medical assistance: If you or someone around you is experiencing signs like chest pain, SOB – shortness of breath, or any other signs of a heart attack, call for emergency medical services immediately.
  • Stay calm: Composure is the key to dealing with any situation. You must help the person stay calm, as panicking is useless and will worsen the situation.
  • Check for breathing: If the patient loses consciousness, check for breathing and start CPR if necessary.
  • Give medication ASAP: If the person has nitroglycerin or aspirin for their heart condition, give it to them.
  • Provide comfort: Loosen tight clothing and help the person lie down on their back.

Final Words

You should know the basic differences between a heart attack and cardiac arrest to be able to provide appropriate care. Keep a regular check on your heart conditions using a heart specialist’s expertise. Contact one from Epic Heart and Vascular Center at 17070 Red Oak Dr # 405, Houston, TX 77090, in the Texas Medical Arts Tower, opposite Abiding Word Lutheran Church. You can also give us a call at Houston: (832) 432-1951 or Willowbrook: (832) 432-1951