Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States, but health experts say many people don’t know the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest.
It can start as mild chest pressure, sweating, and shortness of breath, Jennifer Moss, a nurse practitioner with Lee Health, says these are the symptoms of a heart attack. “A heart attack can be quite subtle. I think that’s why it’s important to know the difference. I feel like on TV what you see sometimes with what they portray as a heart attack is very dramatic.”
But if someone is having cardiac arrest, the signs will be much more dramatic. “It’s where you see a person that just suddenly collapses and they’re not going to have a pulse and they’re not going to be breathing,” said Moss.
Whether the patient is having a heart attack or cardiac arrest, it’s important to call 911 first. If the patient has collapsed, start CPR and use an AED, if possible, to help electrically jump start the heart. “If we can defibrillate the patient and get the heart beating again within minutes, then a lot of times they won’t have prolonged effects; they will actually recover quite well,” said Moss.
Cardiac arrest can be caused by arrhythmia. It could be a hereditary electrical problem in the heart, or the result of severe heart disease. “Risk factors for heart attack would be obesity, poor diet, high cholesterol levels, hypertension, family history does play a role if there is a family history of heart disease, diabetes, smoking,” said Moss.
Patients who have suffered a heart attack are at a higher risk for having cardiac arrest. “Cardiac arrest is actually when the heart suddenly stops, whereas, a heart attack is where there’s reduced blood and oxygen to the heart muscle,” said Moss.
The good news is both are treatable if there is a quick response, which is why health experts say it’s important to know the difference and be able to recognize the symptoms.
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Lee Health in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of health care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For more than 100 years, we’ve been providing our community with personalized preventative health services and primary care to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries. Lee Health - Caring People. Inspiring Care.