Difference between Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest | Heart2Heart

What is the difference between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest?

A heart attack happens when the flow of blood is blocked or partially blocked in the coronary artery and the heart muscle cannot get a blood supply.  The blood carries oxygen which is needs for the muscle to function. Therefore the blood flow needs to be restored quickly.  The heart attack occurs when the plaque breaks away and a thrombus forms which may partially or fully block the artery. A heart attack is essentially a circulation problem.


A cardiac arrest occur as a result of an abnormal rhythm (arrhythmia).  The heart essentially is not getting a proper electrical impulse that allows it to beat.  Someone in cardiac arrest requires cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and maybe defibrillation. Remember the defibrillation stops the heart in the hope that the heart can restart its own normal rhythm.

It is important to note that although different a heart attack can lead to cardiac arrest.  However most heart attacks do not lead to cardiac arrest.

Karen Cradock, Specialist Cardiac Physiotherapist, Heart 2 Heart Cardiac Physiotherapy, Unit 5, Kilcullen Business Campus with satellite programmes in Dublin www.h2hcardiacphysio.com, info@h2hcardiacphysio.com, 045484000.


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