The Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) is urging people to become aware of the differences between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest.
According to the foundation, people often use these two terms interchangeably, assuming that they are the same thing. However, while both require immediate medical attention, these are two different heart events.
A heart attack, also known as myocardial infarction (MI), occurs when the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart muscle, suddenly become blocked, resulting in damage to the muscle.
A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating and pumping blood around the body. This may be due to a sudden disturbance in the heart's rhythm, which leads to the heart either not beating at all, or beating too little to keep the person alive.
In simple terms, a heart attack occurs if the blood flow to the heart is stopped due to a blockage, while a cardiac arrest occurs if the heart itself stops beating suddenly.
"An easy way to remember this may be that a cardiac arrest happens when the heart stops or ‘arrests', while a heart attack is when the heart is ‘under attack' due to a blockage," the IHF noted.
Both of these are very serious heart events, and an ambulance needs to be called immediately. However, with a cardiac arrest, time is particularly of the essence.
"Cardiac arrest requires an immediate response and the person suffering the cardiac arrest needs immediate CPR. In both situations, the ambulance service needs to be called immediately on either 112 or 999.
"In the event of a cardiac arrest, the person will be unresponsive and not breathing properly, whereas when the person is suffering a heart attack they will still be responding and will be breathing. It would be great if we could educate the public in the difference between both emergencies," commented Brigid Sinnott, basic life skills coordinator with the IHF.
CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is an emergency procedure used when someone's breathing and heartbeat has stopped suddenly. It involves pressing hard and fast on the centre of a person's chest, and providing rescue breaths.
If a person suffers a cardiac arrest and they do not receive prompt CPR, their chance of survival decreases by 10% for every minute that nothing is done. For more information on CPR, click here
For more information on the IHF, click here