Heart Attack or Sudden Cardiac Arrest? : Training For Life Blog
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Heart Attack or Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

by Greg Landin on 06/18/15

Often times sudden cardiac arrest is mistaken as a heart attack. Both conditions affect the heart, but what are the differences? Here’s the basic difference:


  • A heart attack is a circulation problem


  • Sudden cardiac arrest is an electrical problem


Heart Attack

Cause: A heart attack is caused by a blocked artery that stops the blood flow to the heart. Symptoms: The symptoms come on slowly (anywhere from hours to days) and can include chest pain, cold sweats, and nausea.

Treatment: Call 911


Cardiac Arrest

Cause: The heart malfunctions and sets into an irregular rhythm called arrhythmia. As a result, the heart cannot pump blood to other parts of the body.

Symptoms: The victim becomes unresponsive.

Treatment: Call 911, perform CPR and use an AED if present


Cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death. Outside a hospital setting, 360,000 people die annually in the US from cardiac arrest.


If you want to see a visual representation of the differences, the American Heart Association has a great infographic here

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