Author: Claudia Guarnaccia
In Australia, the terms cardiac arrest and heart attack are often misused and misunderstood. Cardiac arrest knowledge is quite low in comparison to heart attack; thus, the two terms often collide during communications (particularly in the media).
It is important that all community members know the difference between a cardiac arrest and a heart attack, and further can easily recognise a cardiac arrest when it occurs to act.
What is a Heart Attack?
By definition, a heart attack is a plumbing or circulation problem that occurs when there is a blockage impairing blood flow within the heart. The heart begins to die if the blocked area fails to reopen and repair quickly, therefore, the longer delay in treatment the greater the damage that will be caused.
The person will be conscious and breathing, however will be very unwell and urgent medical treatment is required. It is a must to call triple zero (000) for an Ambulance for help during these situations. The common signs of a heart attack will differ from individual to individual, and between men and women, and may include:
- Chest pain and discomfort.
- Non-chest pain symptoms such as jaw, shoulder, neck or back pain.
- A choking feeling in your throat
- Shortness of breath
- A cold sweat
With Cardiovascular Disease being the leading cause of death in Australia, it is important to note that a severe heart attack (where there is a large blockage of a section of the heart) will lead to a cardiac arrest.
What is a Cardiac Arrest?
By definition, a cardiac arrest refers to the heart’s electrical system malfunctioning, resulting in the heart muscle to quiver or fibrillate rather than pumping blood. If there is a lack of blood pumping through the body, it causes a dramatic decrease in oxygen circulating to the brain and other major organs. The circulatory system begins to shut down causing a person to lose consciousness, collapse and stop breathing. There are often no warnings or notable symptoms prior to a person entering cardiac arrest.
At this point the person is considered clinically dead and critical actions are required to save the person’s life.
Survival rates of out of hospital cardiac arrest is currently 9%.
Responding to a Cardiac Arrest
Restart a Heart Day, held every year on 16 October, teaches us about the issue of cardiac arrest and the vital actions of CALL, PUSH, SHOCK which form part of the Cardiac Chain of Survival:
CALL – Triple Zero (000) for an Ambulance – An Operator will arrange the Ambulance response and provide support to you and the patient.
PUSH – on the chest with Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) to manually make the heart pump and enable blood flow and oxygen to vital organs of the body. This helps keep the patient alive.
SHOCK – A defibrillator must be used in conjunction with CPR, if available. The role of the defibrillator is to attempt to ‘kickstart’ the heart. When the heart commences beating, the patient will start to breath on their own.
The steps in the Cardiac Chain of Survival rely heavily upon bystanders to act as quickly and effectively as possible in the capacity of a first responder. Bystanders are critical to survival which is evidenced by:
- For every minute that passes, the survival rate decreases by 10%.
- NSW Ambulance response times are approximately 10 minutes in Metropolitan Sydney. You cannot solely rely on the Ambulance to save a life – everyone must play a role.
- Bystander action (CALL, PUSH, SHOCK), prior to the Ambulance, increases the chance of survival from less than 9% to more than 60%.
It only takes one-person to act.
Whether you are a first responder to a cardiac arrest, heart attack or other medical emergency, everyone has the chance to provide basic first aid and help save a life.
The Michael Hughes Foundation prides itself on Turning Bystanders Into First Responders. We do this through a range of training services to ensure every individual understands the Cardiac Chain of Survival and can act effectively during these unfortunate situations.
Click the image below to join our free 25 minute online CPR and Defibrillator training course or Contact Us for more information.