One of the most common mistakes that people make when referring to acute heart-related episodes is using the terms “heart attack”, “cardiac arrest” and “stroke” interchangeably.
Although all three are associated with the heart, they occur for different reasons, have different symptoms and affect the body differently.
Understanding their differences can play a vital role in being better prepared to address these issues and seek treatment before it is too late if you or someone around you experiences one of these events.
Read on to gain a basic understanding of what these terms mean, the symptoms each condition entails and how to respond when faced with them.
Understanding What They Are
A heart attack is a circulation disorder.
Sometimes, the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a portion of the heart muscle is blocked. If the blood flow is not restored, the muscle begins to die due to a lack of oxygen. This causes a heart attack.
In a heart attack, the heart continues to beat.
A cardiac arrest is an “electrical” disorder.
When the electrical activity of your heart experiences chaos, it causes the heart to start beating irregularly, and abruptly stop pumping blood through the body. This is a cardiac arrest.
In a cardiac arrest, the heart stops beating completely.
A stroke is a brain disorder.
There are three types:
- Ischemic stroke: When the artery transporting oxygen-rich blood to the brain experiences a blockage, it causes brain cells to die. This leads to an ischemic stroke.
- Transient ischemic attack (TIA): A “mini-stroke” can occur when the artery transporting blood to the brain stops doing so temporarily.
- Hemorrhagic stroke: When an artery ruptures inside the brain, it damages brain cells and leads to a hemorrhagic stroke.
Coronary artery disease is the primary cause of a heart attack and a brain stroke, and one of the primary causes of a cardiac arrest.
In coronary artery disease, the arteries carrying oxygen-rich blood to the heart and the brain are clogged due to plaque (fat deposits) buildup.
A high-cholesterol diet, sedentary lifestyle, lack of physical exercise, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure are some common causes of plaque buildup.