Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Sudden Cardiac Arrest is a condition in which the heart suddenly stops beating

How is a Sudden Cardiac Arrest different from a Heart Attack

06 JUN 2023

When a celebrity dies unexpectedly, it is typical to read in the news that the death was caused by a “heart attack” or a “cardiac arrest”. Reporters frequently use these terms interchangeably; some will use one term while others use the
other as though they mean the same thing.

Although the terms cardiac arrest and heart attack are frequently used interchangeably, they are not synonymous.
Both illnesses are fatal but understanding the differences between them can save many lives. Let us go deep and try to figure out what the difference is between the two.

What is the difference between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest?
Let us use simple analogies to try to comprehend the distinction between the two. Consider your heart to be house. A
house has both electricity and water supply. Any interruption in the electrical supply (heartbeat) may result in cardiac arrest, whereas any interruption in the water supply (blood flow) may result in a heart attack.

Still confused? Let us go over this in greater depth

What is a heart attack?

A heart attack occurs when a blocked artery prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching a section of the heart. If the blocked artery is not reopened quickly, the part of the heart normally nourished by that artery begins to die. The longer a person goes without treatment, the greater the damage.

Symptoms of a heart attack may be immediate and intense. More often, though, symptoms start slowly and persist for hours, days, or weeks before a heart attack. Unlike sudden cardiac arrest, the heart usually does not stop beating during a heart attack. The heart attack symptoms in women can be different than in men.

What is cardiac arrest?

Sudden cardiac arrest occurs suddenly and often without warning. It is triggered by an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). With its pumping action disrupted, the heart cannot pump blood to the brain, lungs, and other organs. Seconds later, a person loses consciousness and has no pulse. Death occurs within minutes if the victim does not receive treatment.

Cardiac Arrest vs Heart Attack

What is the relation between Heart Attack and Sudden Cardiac Arrest?
There is a relationship between these two different heart diseases. Sudden cardiac arrest can happen after a heart attack or while recovering. Sudden cardiac arrest is increased by heart attacks. Most heart attacks do not result in abrupt cardiac arrest. However, a heart attack is a prevalent cause of abrupt cardiac arrest. Other heart problems can also cause the heart’s rhythm to be disrupted and result in sudden cardiac arrest. These include heart muscle thickening, heart failure, arrhythmias, and especially ventricular fibrillation.


Warning Signs of Heart attack vs Cardiac arrest

Heart Attack
Symptoms may occur hours or days before symptoms are recognized

Symptoms of Heart Attack

Cardiac Arrest
Symptoms may occur moments before the loss of consciousness and collapse

Symptoms of Heart Attack

What to do?

Regardless of whether you suspect a cardiac arrest or a heart attack. The first step is always to dial Emergency for medical assistance.

What to do when you suspect a heart attack?

Call the emergency number

Call the emergency number for medical assistance

Chew and swallow aspirin

Chew and swallow aspirin (Unless allergic or told not by a doctor)

Take prescribed Nitroglycerin

Take prescribed Nitroglycerin

What to do when you suspect a cardiac arrest?

Call the emergency number

Call the emergency number for medical assistance

Start CPR

Start CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation)

Use an AED

Use an AED (Automated External Defibrillator)


A cardiac arrest happens when the entire heart stops beating, as opposed to a heart attack, which happens when the blood supply to a portion of the heart is cut off. The signs of a heart attack can vary. The primary signs of cardiac arrest, in contrast, are unconsciousness, lack of breathing, and no pulse. Finally, there are numerous distinct causes of cardiac arrest, whereas coronary heart disease is the main factor in heart attacks.

Disclaimer: The information presented by Boston Scientific India is for educational purposes only and does not recommend self-management of health issues. The information should not be treated as comprehensive and does not intend to provide diagnosis, treatment or any medical advice. Individual results may vary and hence, it is advisable to consult your doctor regarding any medical or health related diagnosis or treatment options.


Related Articles


Heart Attack | Cardiac Arrest | Heartbeat