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

A heart attack is a blockage in an artery to the heart and the heart is still beating with restricted blood flow. Where sudden cardiac arrest is the normal heart rhythm is disrupted from pumping blood because of an electrical malfunction. You will not find a pulse because there is no longer any blood pressure. CPR must begin immediately.

Over 350,000 persons suffer from SCA each year and survival rates are under 5%. If CPR begins at once and an AED is nearby and used survival rates can jump to 40%.  Every minute an AED is delayed survival drops 10%. Everyone should take a CPR and AED course. Now you can do it online in under an hour. All family members should learn these lifesaving skills. Learn CPR for free here.

So, what are some of the signs of SCA?

  • Sudden collapse
  • No breathing
  • No pulse
  • Loss of consciousness

Sometimes there are signs and symptoms prior to collapsing. Here is a short list.

  • Chest pains
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting

What to do when someone collapses from Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Call 9-1-1 immediately and begin CPR and have someone retrieve the Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) if available. If you do not know how to perform CPR just give chest compressions (also known as Hands Only CPR) at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute. If you know CPR you can also deliver ventilations to minimize and brain damage by maintain oxygen levels.

If an AED is available someone should continue CPR while the AED is being setup. Once the pads are attached the machine will check for a heart rhythm and then advise if you should shock or not. Just follow the simple instructions voiced by the AED.