As part of American Heart Month, doctors want to ensure New Yorkers know the difference between cardiac arrest and a heart attack.
According to an American Heart Association study, almost 90% of the 356,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests annually in the U.S. are fatal.
A primary difference between cardiac arrest and a heart attack is cardiac arrest means the heart has stopped beating, while a heart attack occurs when the heart is not getting enough blood.
Dr. Srihari Naidu, president of the New York Chapter of the American College of Cardiology, described why they are often mixed up.
“Heart attack is oftentimes confused with it, because it is a very common cause of sudden cardiac arrest,” Naidu explained. “Many people can have a heart attack, and they’ll have chest pain, and in the course of having that chest pain and other syndromes, they may trigger an electrical arrhythmia that causes sudden cardiac arrest.”
Naidu noted not all heart attack symptoms are the same, but typical symptoms are chest pain or pressure and shortness of breath. A person may also experience nausea or indigestion, extreme fatigue or fainting.
Anyone experiencing new chest pains or shortness of breath should talk with their doctor about heart-health options.
A healthy diet and regular exercise can help reduce the risk of heart attacks or cardiac arrest. Experts also recommend people get CPR training, to be able to aid someone until first responders arrive.
Dr. Ravi Johar, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare, said starting CPR immediately can be the difference between life and death.
“You can start to have brain death within about three minutes or so, and irreversible damage within eight minutes after the heart stops beating,” Johar pointed out. “If you can start something prior to that, there’s a tremendous chance of improvement – and almost a miraculous improvement in many, many cases.”
Heart disease can affect people of all ages. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found it can start as early as 35, and the risk increases with age.
Edwin is a reporter and producer in North Tonawanda, New York. He’s previously reported for the Niagara Gazette and the Ithaca Times. Edwin got an early start in radio interning for WBFO-88.7FM, NPR’s Buffalo affiliate. In 2018, he graduated from SUNY Buffalo State College with a B.A. in Journalism, and in 2022, graduated from Syracuse University with an M.S. in Communications.