Heart disease is a leading cause of death in Singapore – in fact, 35 percent of deaths are from heart disease or stroke. Here, DR JOSHUA LOH explains the difference between heart attacks symptoms and cardiac arrest signs, and the importance of timely and effective intervention.
How heart attacks and cardiac arrests differ
Heart attacks and cardiac arrests are both serious conditions. Heart attacks are caused by “circulation” problems, while cardiac arrests are the result of an “electrical” problem.
A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart muscle is blocked, usually from a blood clot. This prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching the heart. If the blocked artery is not reopened quickly, the affected part of the heart begins to die.
A cardiac arrest occurs when the normal heart-pumping action suddenly stops. This is triggered by an electrical malfunction that causes an irregular and fatal heart rhythm (arrhythmia). When the pumping action becomes ineffective, the heart cannot pump blood to the brain, lungs and other organs.
A heart attack can be life-threatening, but with timely medical intervention, the affected heart muscle can often be saved. However, a massive heart attack can lead to cardiac arrest. A cardiac arrest can be reversed in some victims if it’s treated immediately.
Heart attack and cardiac arrest symptoms and when to seek medical attention
Recognising the early warning heart attack and cardiac arrest signs is crucial to maximising a person’s chance of survival. Common symptoms of a heart attack include chest pain, shortness of breath, pain in the arms, left shoulder, neck, jaw or back, cold sweat, and nausea. Cardiac arrest signs are more sudden and drastic, including a loss of consciousness, absence of normal breathing and gasping.
If someone experiences heart attack symptoms or signs of cardiac arrest, call for an ambulance immediately. In the case of cardiac arrest, bystanders must begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and ideally use an automated external defibrillator (AED) while waiting for emergency medical services to arrive. These emergency procedures are essential to restoring a normal heart rhythm.
When should you consider screening?
You are encouraged to go for heart screening before any symptoms arise. Individuals with risk factors and also those above the age of 40 are strongly encouraged to go for heart screenings. If you experience some symptoms that you suspect could be due to heart disease, it’s vital to consult a cardiologist early. Early detection and treatment of heart disease improves long-term outcomes.
About Dr Loh
Dr Loh is a Senior Consultant Interventional Cardiologist and the Medical Director at Capital Heart Centre. He has over 15 years of experience in the field of cardiology, with expertise in the treatment of complex coronary intervention procedures.
Common risk factors for heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Sedentary lifestyle
This article first appeared in the September 2023 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!
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