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Difference between Heart Attack, Heart Failure, Cardiac Arrest and Stroke

One of the common misconceptions that people tend to have is referring all kinds of heart disease as heart attacks. Most of the time you may find people to use this term more frequently or happen to interchange the terms of heart attack, stroke, cardiac arrest and heart failure. Though all four terms are the names of heart diseases of similar nature, they occur due to different causes, have different effects on the body and have varying symptoms. Having a good understanding of their differences can help in preparing to address such conditions in a better way. It will also help you in seeking treatment before it gets too late.

Difference between Heart Attack, Heart Failure, Cardiac Arrest and Stroke


Heart Attack

Heart attack is the condition which occurs when the flow of blood to a portion of the heart is blocked by any kind of blood clot. The heart muscles begin to die without the flow of oxygenated blood.

Heart Failure

Heart failure is the heart condition in which the heart loses its ability to push blood out in the manner in which it should be pushing. Heart is the important organ of the body which pumps blood to all the parts of the body. When the blood is not pumped by the heart to the circulatory system and the arteries which deliver blood to the tissues and organs of the body, heart failure occurs.

Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac arrest occurs when the beating of the heart suddenly stops in an unexpected manner due to the malfunctioning of the heart.


A stroke can be defined as an attack occurring in the brain where the oxygen and the flow of blood are cut off to the brain. Stroke occurs when the blood vessels which feed the brain bursts or get clogged.


Although all the above conditions of heart are serious, each of these heart problems has different treatments and symptoms.

  • Individuals who happen to suffer from a heart attack will basically experience symptoms such as tightness or pain in the chest area when they are exerting themselves or resting. Some women can also experience pain that radiates down towards arms or tingling or tightness in the shoulder region. As heart attack involves a blockage, it can be treated with medication such as tenecteplase for opening the clot. Doctors might also use stent placement or catheterization in the case where the clotting is more severe.
  • On the other hand, heart failure is a chronic condition which exists for the longer duration of time. However, it is similar to heart attacks in respects of sudden occurrence. The nervous and the hormone systems of the body compensate for the lack of the blood supply. This results in an increase of the blood pressure level and the heartbeats faster which are different from the case of heart attack. This condition forces the body to hold on to water and salt. The built-up fluid in the body results in heart failure which does not show any symptoms initially.  However, it has slow development of symptoms like gain in weight, nausea and other conditions which are not related to the heart.  One can also experience a hacking cough in the lying down position which does not occur in the case of heart attacks. Patients also experience fatigue, dizziness or fainting senses.
  • Heart failure is treated in accordance with the underlying cause as it needs lifelong management of cardiac health. Doctors correct heart failure by repairing one of the heart valves or by regulating the speed of the heart rhythm. In certain cases, the condition is treated with prolonged terms of medications. However, in certain cases, surgeries are recommended.
  • Cardiac arrest, unlike heart attack and heart failure which are blood circulatory problems, is an electrical problem which is caused by disruption of heart’s beat. When a patient undergoes cardiac arrest, one of the common causes is heart attack while the reverse is not always true. In most of the cases, cardiac arrest is a medical condition which is experienced during a scenario of a medical emergency. It is not always preceded by any kind of heart disease; however, many patients go through warning symptoms till a month before experiencing cardiac arrest.
  • As cardiac arrest stops the beating of the heart, the lungs, brain and other organs can stop functioning. Patients experience dizziness, problems with breathing and loss of consciousness among which some are similar to that of heart failure.
  • When a person suffers from a stroke, the carotid arteries carrying blood to the brain stops functioning because of plaque built up. Due to the high pressure of blood straining the artery walls leads to bursting or clogging of a blood vessel. The symptom of sudden weakness or numbness might be similar to the heart failure or attack. Other symptoms of stroke include paralysis of arms, legs or face, severe headache, sudden changes in vision, etc. Treatment varies according to different conditions of the patient.

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