Heart attack or cardiac arrest? How to spot, and what to do

Posted on January 9, 2023

Syracuse, NY – You’ve heard the terms “heart attack” and “cardiac arrest,” but do you really know what they mean? Each describes a life-threatening cardiac event but understanding the difference could help you save someone’s life.

“A heart attack is a plumbing issue — an artery that brings blood to the heart is blocked,” says Nicholas Massa, MD, CPC, vice president medical affairs, clinical services at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “Victims are usually conscious, and while they need medical attention quickly, an electrical charge from an automated external defibrillator (AED) may not be needed because often, the heart is beating and the victim is breathing.”

 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), signs that someone is having a heart attack include chest pain or discomfort; feeling weak, light-headed, or faint; pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back; pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders; and shortness of breath. Other symptoms of a heart attack could include unusual or unexplained tiredness and nausea or vomiting. Women are more likely to have these other symptoms. Anyone experiencing one or more of these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately.

 

“Cardiac arrest, also known as sudden cardiac arrest, is an electrical issue that occurs when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions,” says Massa. “Without warning, the victim collapses and stops breathing.” The heart is electrically active but is unable to beat in a regular rhythm, and therefore unable to pump blood to the brain or other organs. Medical attention is needed immediately, or the victim will die.

 

According to the American Heart Association, more than 350,000 Americans outside of hospitals die each year from sudden cardiac arrest, meaning they were stricken at home or while out in public. 

 

“Cardiac arrest can sometimes be reversed if CPR is immediately performed, and an AED is used within minutes to shock the heart into stopping its chaotic rhythm,” says Massa. “You never know where, or when, it will occur, which is why it is vital to have as many people as possible trained in CPR and have AEDs available in places where people gather and also participate in athletic activities.”

Many AEDs issue spoken commands to coach even an untrained layperson in their use, and in the proper administration of CPR. If the device detects a shockable rhythm, it will provide voice instruction on how to deliver an electrical charge. If it doesn’t detect a shockable rhythm, it will not allow a shock to be administered. In the absence of any cardiac electrical activity, CPR offers the only chance for survival until medical professionals arrive.

 

Massa urges everyone to take CPR training where they’ll also become familiar with using an AED. To find a CPR class near you, visit RedCross.org, or the American Heart Association website at Heart.org.

# # #

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is a nonprofit health plan with 1.5 million upstate New York members. The company's mission is to help people live healthier and more secure lives through access to high-quality, affordable health care. Its products and services include cost-saving prescription drug discounts, wellness tracking tools and access to telemedicine. With more than 4,000 employees, the company is committed to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce to foster innovation and better serve its members. It also encourages employees to engage in their communities by providing paid volunteer time off as one of many benefits. To learn more, visit ExcellusBCBS.com.

Other Member News

Volunteers Needed to Deliver Meals to Seniors
July 3, 2024

Volunteers Needed to Deliver Meals to Seniors

Find out more here.

CPS Recruitment Announces Two Promotions
July 2, 2024

CPS Recruitment Announces Two Promotions

CPS Recruitment has provided direct hire recruiting, temporary staffing solutions, contract, contract to hire, and payroll services to corporations nationwide for more than 34 years.

Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary Designation Celebration
July 2, 2024

Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary Designation Celebration

Get all the details here.

Country Smoked
July 2, 2024

Grand Opening Annoucement: Country Smoked BBQ & Fixins’ Brings Fresh BBQ Experience to Central Square

In addition to their standard menu items, they will be offering exciting weekly specials, ensuring there’s always something new to try.

Sana Wajeeh
July 2, 2024

Oswego Health Appoints Wajeeh Sana, MD, FAAFP as New Chief Medical Officer

With over seventeen years of experience as an emergency physician, Wajeeh Sana, MD, FAAFP has been a member of the Medical Staff at Oswego Hospital since 2013.

Ron Tascarella
July 2, 2024

Oswego Health Announces New Board Leadership

Oswego Health Board of Directors unanimously voted on leadership changes.

Missy Purtell
July 2, 2024

Oswego Health Promotes Melissa Purtell, RN, BSN, MSN to VP of Nursing Operations

Purtell has spent her career in the nonprofit healthcare system.

Marriott Syracuse Downtown 100th Anniversary Celebration
July 1, 2024

Marriott Syracuse Downtown 100th Anniversary Celebration

Join the hotel for an exciting, fun-filled weekend packed with events and activities as it honors a century of history and hospitality.

Ambassador Celebration Graphics
July 1, 2024

Ambassadors-CEO Insights July 2024

CenterState CEO Ambassadors welcome and recognize businesses celebrating grand openings, company anniversaries and other important milestones.