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.
Understanding Their Symptoms
A heart attack and cardiac arrest sometimes have common symptoms.
However, the other accompanying symptoms, as well as how long the symptoms last, differentiate these conditions from each other.
The symptoms of a stroke are mostly neurological.
Symptoms of a Heart Attack:
The following symptoms of a heart attack can appear early on and persist for days.
- Chest pain (angina): People usually characterize this as a heaviness or tightness in the middle of the chest. Some often confuse it with indigestion. It might stay for a few minutes, go away and come back again.
- Body aches: The sensation of chest pressure or an indigestion-like feeling might be accompanied by pain in the arms (especially the left arm), neck, back, abdomen and jaw.
- Shortness of breath and wheezing
- Cold sweats
- Lightheadedness and dizziness
- Increased anxiety
These symptoms aren’t relieved by medications or home remedies that typically resolve them. So, if you feel like you have indigestion and you take something to treat it, the symptom will return because the problem is with your heart not your digestive system.
In addition, these symptoms are likely to occur more when you exert yourself (running, jogging, exercising, swimming, etc.).
Symptoms of a Cardiac Arrest:
Sometimes, in the few minutes preceding a cardiac arrest, a person may experience symptoms similar to a heart attack:
- Loss of consciousness/fainting
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Extreme palpitation
However, in most cases and unlike a heart attack, a person who suffers a cardiac arrest will experience:
- Lack of responsiveness
- Loss of breath
- Loss of pulse
- Sudden collapse
These appear suddenly and often result in instant death.
If you have suffered a heart attack, you are at a greater risk of cardiac arrest.
Symptoms of a Stroke:
- Mental confusion: You may have trouble understanding things and following conversations. You may find it hard to remember names, places, random facts and other things you used to be able to recall.
- Disrupted speech: You may slur your speech.
- Face, arm or leg paralysis: You may experience a numbness or paralysis on one side of your face or the entire face. You may experience paralysis, numbness or weakness in your legs and arms, especially on one side. If one side of your mouth droops when you smile, or one arm keeps falling down when you lift both of them up, you might be experiencing a stroke.
- Inability to walk: You may experience a loss of body coordination and dizziness while trying to walk.
- Blurred vision: Your vision may blur in one or both eyes. You might also start seeing double.
- Headaches: A searing pain in the head might be accompanied by dizziness and vomiting.
- Excessive sweating
- Transient ischemic attack (TIA): Although many people who suffer a major stroke do not suffer a preceding mini-stroke, a 2009 study published in Nutrition notes that about 10 percent of people suffer a major stroke approximately a week after a TIA.
source : www.heart.org
source: www. circ.ahajournals.org