Love Your Heart By Knowing the Difference Between a Heart Attack and Sudden Cardiac Arrest


Until it happens to us or someone we love, most of us don’t know the difference between a heart attack and a sudden cardiac arrest. You’re definitely not the first to assume a heart attack and sudden cardiac are interchangeable terms.

But when it comes to something that causes around 10% of all deaths in Australia each year (approximately 30,000 Australians die of sudden cardiac arrest each year), we really should be as informed as possible to ensure we’re doing everything possible to help save lives.

So What Is the Key Difference Between a Heart Attack and a Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

The main difference is the cause. A heart attack is caused by a blockage of the blood flow to the heart whereas sudden cardiac arrest is caused by a malfunction of the electrical impulses that go the heart, stopping it from beating.

Many people believe what happens in a heart attack is that the heart stops beating, but this isn’t always the case. A blockage does cause pain and serious symptoms, but it won’t usually cause swift death the way a sudden cardiac arrest can.

What Is More Serious?

When it comes to mortality rates, a sudden cardiac arrest is sadly much more likely to be fatal. This is mainly because of the quick time frame involved – death can happen in minutes. When it comes to a heart attack, it can take hours or days for the symptoms to progress to a point where it is deadly.

The reasons for a heart stop beating suddenly can be wide and varied, but there is one thing in common – bystanders must act quickly to ensure the best possible chance of survival.

An Easy Guide to the Key Differences Between a Sudden Cardiac Arrest and Heart Attack

From the causes to outcomes and even what to do, there are many differences to be aware of:


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HealthForce Training Center provides high quality training and the latest American Heart Association programs customized for health and non-health care providers. Our mission is to provide a fun and stress free learning experience that can equip individuals with the knowledge and skills to be confident with their medical care and emergency situations.

AHA Disclaimer: The American Heart Association strongly promotes knowledge and proficiency in BLS, ACLS, and PALS and has developed instructional materials for this purpose. Use of these materials in an educational course does not represent course sponsorship by the American Heart Association. Any fees charged for such a course, except for a portion of fees needed for AHA materials, do not represent income to the Association.

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