Understanding What They Are: Heart attacks, Cardiac Arrest and Strokes


New Delhi: 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, Heart attacks, cardiac arrest and strokes are all serious conditions associated with the heart, but 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.
Difference among the Three Conditions:
Heart Attack:  A circulation disorder.
A heart attack isn’t the same thing as cardiac arrest. The two terms are used interchangeably a lot, but they’re actually different.
A heart attack occurs when a blocked artery prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching a section of the heart. If the blocked artery is not reopened quickly, the part of the heart normally nourished by that artery begins to die. The longer a person goes without treatment, the greater the damage. Symptoms of a heart attack may be immediate and intense. More often, though, symptoms start slowly and persist for hours, days or weeks before a heart attack. Unlike with sudden cardiac arrest, the heart usually does not stop beating during a heart attack. The heart attack symptoms in women can be different than men.
In a heart attack, the heart continues to beat.
The symptoms and treatment:
People who are suffering from a heart attack will typically have symptoms like chest pain or tightness that happens when they’re resting or exerting themselves. Women, however, might have shortness of breath, pain radiating down their arm, or numbness or tingling in their shoulder. Other symptoms can include; Anxiety, Light-headedness or dizziness, Sweating, Weakness and Palpitations etc. And since heart attacks deal with a blockage, they can be treated with medicine like tenecteplase to open the clot.
Cardiac Arrest: An “electrical” disorder.
Cardiac Arrest is a heart condition where the heart does not contract properly, thereby failing to effectively circulate blood to the other organs, including the brain. 
Cardiac arrest occurs suddenly and often without warning. It is triggered by an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). With its pumping action disrupted, the heart cannot pump blood to the brain, lungs and other organs. Seconds later, a person loses consciousness and has no pulse. Death occurs within minutes if the victim does not receive treatment.
In a cardiac arrest, the heart stops beating completely.
The symptoms and treatment:
With cardiac arrest, people often just pass out. They may feel dizzy or light-headed and suddenly black out. Chest pain, Shortness of breath, Weakness, Dizziness, Palpitations and Nausea etc, warning signs may also occur in the period before a cardiac arrest. Immediate treatment with a cardiac arrest is CPR and a shock with defibrillator to jump-start a person’s heart, that may be followed up with a breathing tube and other medicines or machines to support the heart.
Stroke: A brain disorder.
Stroke is the loss of brain function due to blockage of blood to the brain. The brain requires oxygenated blood and nutrients from the heart. When the brain fails to receive the blood, it stops functioning and the brain cells start dying. A stroke can be referred to as a “brain attack”.
There are two major types of strokes: 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. And, Hemorrhagic stroke: When an artery ruptures inside the brain, it damages brain cells and leads to a hemorrhagic stroke.
The symptoms and treatment:
Symptoms of a stroke typically include a sudden, severe headache, sudden numbness or weakness; paralysis (of the face, arm, or legs), confusion or difficulty with speech, difficulty understanding people, loss of balance, and sudden vision changes. And its Treatment varies depending on the type of stroke someone had. If it’s an ischemic stroke, doctors will need to get the blood clot. 
A medication called TPA can be given if the stroke is caught early, but surgery can be performed, too. “With hemorrhagic stroke, the key is control the bleeding, this means get any blood thinners out of the body and control the blood pressure.
Along with that, there is a procedure created known as FAST that helps determine if a person is suffering from a stroke. FAST is an anagram for Face, Arm, Speech and Time:
Face states that is the patient’s face drooping or ask them to smile to see if they can perform the function. Arm states to ask the person to hold out their arms in front of them straight, determine if they are able to fulfill the activity. Speech – is the person’s speech slurred? Ask them to repeat a sentence. The time states if the person is unable to perform any of the functions above, the person should call medical professionals.
Risk Factors of Each Condition 
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:
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 
Although heart attack and stroke are different, the risk factors are the same for both. But without the assistance of medical or personnel, it’s hard to know exactly what might be happening, therefore, if someone is suspected to be experiencing either of these conditions, seek emergency assistance immediately. 

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