Do you know the differences between a cardiac arrest, a heart attack and a stroke

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I decided to write an article about the differences between the two because of my father. He suffered from clogged arteries that leaded to four by-pass, three years ago. Because his condition was early discovered, it saved his life. This article is only meant to be an informative text about the differences and should you have any questions, you should consult your health care professional.

Despite similitude, there are some differences between a cardiac arrest, a heart attack and a stroke. It is very important that you know these differences because cardiovascular diseases have been responsible for more deaths in the United States than any other cause. One person dies of it every 37 seconds.  In Canada, cardiovascular diseases are responsible for more than 50 000 deaths every year.

What is a stroke ?
A stroke is a sudden lost of brain function. The reasons are various, but in a small number of cases, some damage to the brain can occur when the heart stops (cardiac arrest).

What are the signs ?

Weakness : Even if temporary, a sudden loss of strength or numbness in the face, the arm or the leg.

Trouble speaking: Even if temporary, a sudden difficulty when speaking or understanding, or experiencing a sudden confusion.

Vision problems :Even if temporary, sudden trouble with vision

Headache : Sudden, severe and unusual headache.

What should you do ?

Call 911 immediately. Stroke is treatable.

What is a cardiac arrest ?

When somebody stops breathing and when the heart stops beating, he/she is experiencing a cardiac arrest.


Various causes, including heart disease, stroke, suffocation, drowning, electrocution, drug overdose, injuries caused by an accident.

What are the signs ?

Sudden loss of responsiveness : No response to tapping on shoulders.

No normal breathing : The victim does not take a normal breath when you tilt the head up and check for at least five seconds.

What should you do ?

Call 911 (or have somebody call it for you) and start CPR immediately !

When a cardiac arrest happens, every seconds counts because with each passing minutes, the probability of survival goes down by 7 % to 10 %. When CPR and defibrillation are used together, the rate of survival might increase to more than 50%.

What is a heart attack ?

It is when the blood supply to the heart is slowed or stopped because of a blockage.


90 % of heart attacks are due to atherosclerosis, which is when the coronary arteries narrows, because of plaque build-up. Also, when a coronary artery contracts temporarily, or goes into a severe spasm, shutting off the flow of blood to the heart. The severity of the damages of the heart depends on how long the blood supply is cut off.

What are the signs ?

Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, other are slower with only some small pains or discomfort. Too often, people are not sure about what is happening and they wait too long before getting help.

Chest discomfort : Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

Discomfort in other areas of the upper body : Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

Shortness of breath : With or without chest discomfort.

Other signs : May include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness

NOTE : 1. Women are more likely to experience some of the common symptoms : shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting and back or jaw pain.

2. A heart attack may lead to a cardiac arrest.

What should you do ?

If you experience pain, have it checked by a doctor or call 911 (depending on the severity of your pain and discomfort). It may save your life, do not hesitate.

The more you know about heart disease, better you will be prepared in case you or somebody you love suffer a heart attack/cardiac arrest.

Learn the signs and be aware.

NOTE : The author is by no way a doctor. This text is meant to be informative and represent general guidelines only. Should you have any questions about heart disease, it is your responsibility to contact a health care specialist. Yep, I am no doctor but I have an interest in heart disease for personal reasons. I am not responsible for your health.


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