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One of the most prolific and beloved political figures of India, Sushma Swaraj suffered a massive cardiac on Tuesday night and left the whole country in grief. The untimely death of the former foreign minister has triggered a wave of shock and disbelief with emotional tributes pouring in from all the sects of the society.
The BJP leader, 67, was taken to Delhi's AIIMS hospital and rushed straight away to the emergency ward in an extremely critical condition. While we come in terms with the sudden demise of the popular people’s leader, here is detailed break-down of the difference between heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest.
A lot of media outlets are using the terms heart attack and cardiac arrest interchangeably, mistaking it to be the same disease, but they are not. To understand the difference between the two, it is important to know what exactly happens in the body during both heart attack and cardiac arrest.
What is a heart attack?
A heart attack happens when there is a blockage in the coronary arteries. They are the blood vessels which supply blood to the cardiac muscle. Since the heart is a muscle, it requires oxygen-rich blood to function. A blockage in the coronary arteries causes a heart attack as the blood flow to the cardiac muscle is stopped. If the blocked coronary arteries are not opened quickly, the heart muscles may start dying.
What is cardiac arrest?
A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops beating altogether. It is triggered by an electric malfunction in the heart, which further results in an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). This is the primary difference between the two, as in case of heart attack, the heart still keeps beating even if the blood supply is blocked to the cardiac muscle.
What happens after a cardiac arrest?
Since the heart stops beating, it may result in unconsciousness, no breathing and no pulse. Death due to cardiac arrest may occur within just a few minutes if prompt treatment is not provided.
Risk factor for heart attack
Those at the most risk for a heart attack are:
1. Overweight or obese people
2. A family history of heart diseases
3. High blood pressure
5. Lack of physical exercise
6. A sedentary lifestyle
Risk factors for cardiac arrest
1. Usage of recreational drugs
2. Heart medications
3. Damage to the heart muscle
4. Heart rhythm abnormalities
The bottom line
To reduce the risk of cardiac arrest, it is crucial that you get routine checkups and heart screenings done. In case of a cardiac arrest, it is extremely important to act as soon as possible as prompt action can actually save a life. Start doing CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation) right away till the time emergency services do not arrive.
In the case of a heart attack, call an ambulance straight away and begin CPR if the patient has become unconscious. You may give the person an aspirin tablet (unless the doctor has prescribed otherwise).
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