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Heart Attack vs. Cardiac Arrest: Knowing the Signs

December 30, 2016

Star Wars fans all over the world were shocked to hear of the death of Carrie Fisher on December 27. Though no official reports have been released, media statements allege that she died due to a heart attack and cardiac arrest. The confusing accounts have left many wondering about the differences between heart attack and cardiac arrest, and what otherwise healthy women should know.

Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac arrest or sudden cardiac death is estimated to take 400,000 lives each year. Sudden cardiac death occurs when there is an immediate stop of cardiac activity with blood pressure collapse. It usually occurs secondary to a dangerous irregular heart rhythm. Unfortunately, most patients who enter cardiac arrest die immediately. Even if identified instantly, the survival rate for a patient taken by EMS to the hospital for cardiac arrest is estimated at 7%-8%.

You may be able to lower your risk of cardiac arrest by learning the warning signs of heart disease and getting help right away if you develop any. Be sure to contact your physician if you notice any symptoms.

Heart Attack

A heart attack occurs when an artery in the heart is partially or completely blocked, and blood flow to the heart muscle is interrupted. Oxygen cannot get to the heart muscle, causing tissue damage or tissue death. Upon arrival at the hospital, diagnosis may be achieved using cardiac tests such as echocardiogram, electrocardiogram, coronary angiography, and more.

There are several different causes for heart attacks, but individuals with coronary artery disease are at high risk for of heart attacks. There are modifiable risk factors and non-modifiable risk factors for coronary artery disease. Modifiable risk factors are tobacco use, hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol. Non-modifiable risk factors are family history, gender and age. Males and the elderly are at higher risk for heart attacks.

Heart Attack Symptoms in Women

It is important for everyone to know the symptoms of a heart attack that are chest discomfort, chest tightness, shortness of breath, dizziness and passing out.

However, the symptoms of a heart attack may be different for women. Women may also experience shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, and back or jaw pain. Profound fatigue is another identifying symptom, as well cold sweats and lightheadedness. These may be compounding symptoms, or experienced individually from general heart attack symptoms.

Individuals who believe they may be experiencing a heart attack should call for help immediately. Treatment includes aspirin, beta-blockers, and anti-anxiety medicine. If you are having a heart attack, the treatment of choice is an angioplasty with possible stent to open the blocked artery. It is critical to receive treatment as soon as possible. The longer you wait to treat a heart attack, there is an increase in potential heart damage. Time is heart muscle.

It is important to understand that cardiac arrest can occur simultaneously with a heart attack or without a heart attack. While AEDs and CPR can help, who may be experiencing cardiac distress of any type should be taken to the hospital immediately so that medical professionals can assist.

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