Heart attacks and sudden cardiac arrest, known as SCA, both involve the heart but, they’re two separate medical situations. These two very serious conditions require the same amount of attention. Unfortunately, they don’t get equal research, and many people confuse them when discussing different cardiovascular events. 

A Heart Attack Involves Blood Flow 

A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, occurs when the blood is restricted and can’t reach the heart. The longer a section doesn’t receive the oxygen-rich blood, the more damage occurs. Heart attacks happen most often to patients with heart disease, which can be caused by internal and external factors. Arrhythmias are a common cause of cardiovascular conditions. These can occur because of 

  • Heart defects (congenital disabilities or birth injuries)
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Alcohol and drug abuse

Other circumstances that lead to heart attacks include cardiomyopathy or thickening of the heart muscles and infections from bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Additionally, conditions involving the heart valves can also lead to a heart attack, such as rheumatic fever, connection tissue disorders, and infections. It’s also important to understand that While medical problems can lead to a heart attack, they won’t all involve sudden cardiac arrest. 

Heart Attacks Don’t Always Involve Cardiac Arrest 

When you think of a heart attack, you may think the heart stops. But this isn’t always true. While it can stop if aid isn’t administered in time during the recovery from a heart attack, many people who experience the myocardial infarction don’t experience a full stop of all functions. Sudden cardiac arrest is when the heart stops functioning unexpectedly. Before a person’s cardiovascular system ceases to work, the victim will almost always have symptoms a few days or hours beforehand that lets them know what’s happening, such as,

  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Arm, shoulder, jack, neck, or back discomfort or pain 
  • Unexplained drowsiness

In addition to these signs, women often experience other symptoms, including nausea and vomiting.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest is a Mechanical Issue 

Whereas a heart attack is a circulation issue, medical professionals identify SCR as a breakdown in the heart’s mechanics. Where there are symptoms of a heart attack, SCR has few immediate warning signs, and they’re almost all critical. With this condition, there are no blocked blood vessels. Patients in SCA present with a sudden collapse, loss of consciousness, and no pulse or breathing. Unfortunately, cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in America and around the world. 

Children may present with some signs, which is why it’s important to pay attention to situations, such as fainting or having seizures during or right after exercising. Other symptoms care providers may notice, include,

  • Shortness of breath without exercise or exertion
  • Racing heart
  • Dizziness
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Family history of unexplained deaths under the age of 50

Additionally, cardiac arrest is often fatal when the victim doesn’t get manual CPR or an automated external defibrillator (AED) to restart the heart. Death can occur a few short minutes after the heart stops. 

Causes of Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Youths 

Similar to myocardial infarction, sudden cardiac arrest can happen to people of any age. However, sudden cardiac arrest is devastating the world’s younger population. Although the symptoms are most often drastic, as described, there are conditions and situations that can lead to SCA.  The most common causes of SCA in youth, include,

  • Sudden blow to the chest (such as during a sports match, a vehicle accident, or fall)
  • Electrocution
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
  • Severe asthma attacks, choking, or allergic reactions
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy
  • Arrhythmias

If a person suddenly collapses and has no pulse, call 911, and start CPR immediately. The faster the response, the better chances they have of surviving SCA. If you’re not trained in CPR for children, the 911 operator may be able to walk you through the steps to help save their life. 

It’s essential for medical professionals to conduct more research, including long- and short-term studies to help identify sudden cardiac arrest earlier to increase the survival rate of children and adults. Science is able to restart the heart, repair it, and completely replace it. Now it needs to learn how to prevent more SCAs from occurring and save patients faster to reduce the damage that happens following prolonged periods of oxygen loss.  

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