It is very common for people to confuse Sudden Cardiac Arrest with a Heart Attack, but the two are actually distinctly different. While both are dangerous conditions affecting the heart, it’s important to know the difference between the two, as symptoms, treatment, and chances of survival are drastically dissimilar.

What is a heart attack?

A heart attack is caused by an arterial blockage which prevents blood from reaching the heart as part of routine circulation. As the American Heart Association warns, “If the blocked artery is not reopened quickly, the part of the heart normally nourished by that artery begins to die.” 

Myocardial infarction as a person suffering from a heart attack due to clogged coronary artery as a cardiology distress symbol with 3D illustration elements.Symptoms are generally noticeable and can gradually increase over days or weeks leading up to heart attack. The CDC describes the five major symptoms of a heart attack as:

  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back.
  • Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint.
  • Chest pain or discomfort.
  • Pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder.
  • Shortness of breath.

It’s important to note though, that women may have different symptoms than men, which can include “unusual or unexplained tiredness and nausea or vomiting.” According to, women may also experience indigestion or heartburn, and are more likely to have a heart attack without obvious symptoms (called a “silent heart attack”). 

In a heart attack, the heart does not usually stop beating, but rather struggles to supply blood to all four chambers of the heart.

What to do for a heart attack?

Critical to survival, it’s important that anyone experiencing likely heart attack symptoms should contact 9-1-1 immediately and get to a hospital as quickly as possible. The quicker medical treatment is applied, the less likely permanent damage to the heart is likely, and the greater chances of survival and recovery.A speeding emergency medical services ambulance, with motion blur

What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

The National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute describes Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) as simply “a condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating.” This can occur suddenly and without warning, and may occur in infants, children, teens, young adults, or adults with no history of heart disease. When an electrical malfunction causes the heart to stop beating, the victim quickly loses consciousness as the oxygen supply to the brain and other vital organs is cut off. Death can occur within minutes if treatment is not quickly provided.

What to do for SCA?

First Aid Emergency CPR on a Man who has Heart Attack or Shock , One Part of the Process ResuscitationSCA is the leading cause of adults in the United States, but life-saving treatment is possible. Time is of the absolute essence, so it’s important that bystanders act quickly when someone collapses due to SCA. If you are present when someone experiences cardiac arrest, it is first and foremost important to call or have someone else call 9-1-1 immediately. Then send another bystander to quickly retrieve the nearest automated external defibrillator (AED). While waiting for the AED and emergency services, begin CPR. CPR will continue to circulate oxygenated blood through the body while waiting for an AED to shock the heart back to its regular rhythm. Both of these steps together can triple the victim’s chances of survival before emergency services arrive. Every minute without access to an AED decreases survival chances by 10%.

This is why it is so important for more people to be certified in CPR and AED training. The more bystanders we have that are prepared to respond to SCA, the greater the chances of survival. Safety & Health Solutions provides high-quality CPR training to individuals and groups, in hopes of creating a safer environment for people everywhere. Check out our schedule or give us a call to find the class that’s right for you, your family, your coworkers, or staff! Safety and Health