Is It Sudden Cardiac Arrest or Heart Attack? They’re Not the Same.

Is It Sudden Cardiac Arrest or Heart Attack? They’re Not the Same.

Understanding the Difference Could Save Your Life

Did you think sudden cardiac arrest and heart attack are the same thing? They’re not. But most still mistakenly believe they’re one and the same. We even see the confusion play out in the mass media and popular TV and films every day. If more people understood the difference, thousands of lives could be saved each year. So, we at the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation recently collaborated with Mediaplanet and USA Today to publish a special feature on the Future of Personal Health that illustrates the two conditions, how they can sometimes be related, and the critical steps for both prevention and treatment.

So, what’s the difference?

A heart attack is a blood flow problem, caused by a blockage. The victim is usually awake, and while symptoms can vary (particularly among men and women), it is often associated with chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea or sweating.

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is an electrical problem, caused by a disruption in the heart’s electrical system. The victim quickly loses consciousness with little or no warning signs, has no pulse and ceases to breathe normally.

Both are very serious, but in the case of SCA, treatment in the form of CPR and a defibrillator must start immediately, as the chances of survival decrease by 10 percent with each minute that passes.

How are they related?

While there are many causes of SCA, including underlying (and often undetected) heart rhythm disorders, one of the most common risk factors is a recent heart attack. The dead muscle from a heart attack can make the heart electrically unstable, putting patients at greater risk for SCA.

With more than 1.5 million Americans suffering heart attacks each year, that’s a lot of people who may not realize they’re at increased risk for SCA.

Please check out the Future of Personal Health feature, which shares the story of Andy Graber, who survived both a heart attack and SCA. His story is all too common, and one we hope will help save others. He was fortunate that his doctor prescribed a LifeVest wearable defibrillator after his heart attack, and that device helped save his life.

Once you read, please share the story with others, comment here to share with us your own experience, and feel free to ask questions. We hope a continued conversation about SCA and heart attack will help to educate more of the public and, ultimately, save more lives.

By Carissa Caramanis O’Brien (@CarissaO), Member, Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation Board of Directors

Mission & Vision

The mission of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) Foundation is to prevent death and disability from sudden cardiac arrest. The vision of the SCA Foundation is to increase awareness about sudden cardiac arrest and influence attitudinal and behavioral changes that will reduce mortality and morbidity from SCA.

SCA Newsletter

Sign Up with the SCA Foundation News in order to stay informed! (* required field)

Contact Us

The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation would like to hear from you! If you have questions or comments — Contact Us!


Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation
7500 Brooktree Road
Wexford, PA 15090

Copyright © 2019 Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

Web Design & Development, & Web Hosting By FastWebEngine