First Choice Neurology

Heart Attack, Cardiac Arrest, and Stroke

Do you know the difference between a heart attack, cardiac arrest, and stroke? A heart attack and cardiac arrest involve the heart, while a stroke involves the brain.

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked. Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart malfunctions and suddenly stops beating unexpectedly. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients.


What is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack occurs when a blocked artery prevents blood from reaching a section of your heart. The blocked artery needs to be reopened quickly or the heart nourished by that artery begins to die. The longer a person goes without treatment, the greater the damage.

heart attack vs. cardiac arrest

Heart attack symptoms can be immediate and can be intense. Symptoms can also start slowly and can persist for hours, days or weeks before a heart attack. Heart attack symptoms in women can be different than men.

Heart Attack Symptoms in Men
• Most heart attacks involve uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, or pain in the center of the chest that can last for minutes. This discomfort can go away and come back.
• Upper body pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
• Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
• Other signs can include a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

Heart Attack Symptoms in Women
• Women can experience the same symptoms as men.
• Women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. They are more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and back or jaw pain.


What is Cardiac Arrest?

Cardiac arrest occurs suddenly and often without warning. It is an abrupt loss of heart function. It may be caused by irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). A common arrhythmia associated with cardiac arrest is ventricular fibrillation. Ventricular fibrillation is when the heart’s lower chambers suddenly start beating chaotically and don’t pump blood to the brain, lungs and other organs. Seconds later, a person loses consciousness and has no pulse.

Cardiac arrest may be reversed if CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is performed and a defibrillator is used to shock the heart and restore a normal heart rhythm within a few minutes. Death can result quickly if proper steps aren’t taken immediately. More than 350,000 cardiac arrests occur outside of a hospital each year in the United States.


What is a Stroke?

strokeA stroke can occur with little warning. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die. Timely treatment is crucial to minimize brain damage and potential complications. Stroke is dangerous and deadly.

There are three main types of stroke: ischemic stroke, hemorrhagic stroke, and transient ischemic attack.

Ischemic Stroke (Clots) – An ischemic stroke occurs when a vessel supplying blood to the brain is obstructed or clots. It accounts for about 87 percent of all strokes. Fatty deposits lining the vessel walls, called atherosclerosis, are the main cause of an ischemic stroke.

Hemorrhagic Stroke (Bleeds) – A Hemorrhagic Stroke occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures and bleeds. The two types of weakened blood vessels that usually cause hemorrhagic stroke are aneurysms and arteriovenous malformations (AVMs). The most common cause of hemorrhagic stroke is uncontrolled high blood pressure.

TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack) – A TIA is a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain. It is sometimes called a mini-stroke. It is caused by a serious temporary clot. It doesn’t cause permanent damage and is often ignored. TIAs may signal a full-blown stroke ahead.


Stroke Symptoms

By learning and sharing the F.A.S.T. (Face, Arm, Speech, Time) warning signs, you might save a life from stroke.

Face – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven or lopsided?
Arm – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
Speech – Is the speech slurred? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand?
Time – If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if they go away, call 911 and get them to the hospital immediately.

Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the United States. Nearly three-quarters of all strokes occur in people over the age of 65. The risk of having a stroke more than doubles each decade after the age of 55. About 600,000 of these are first attacks, and 185,000 are recurrent attacks. More than 140,000 people die each year from strokes in the United States.

First Choice Neurology has several neurologists who specialize in stoke. We the largest neurology group in the United States with more than 41 facilities in 6 Florida counties and services at 35 major hospitals.


A heart attack, cardiac arrest, and stroke are all life-threatening emergencies. If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the above symptoms, call 911 immediately.

Translate »
Skip to content