Understanding the Leading Causes of Death: Heart Attack, Heart Failure, and Cardiac Arrest

heart attack

Contrary to popular belief, heart attack, heart failure, and cardiac arrest represent three different heart conditions, say doctors.

A stark reminder that one’s life could end at any time is the string of celebrity deaths that took the world by surprise in 2016. According to medical researchers, cardiovascular complications make for the number one killer around the world. Even though all are heart-related and sound as if it was the same thing, doctors have clear definitions for heart attack, cardiac arrest, and heart failure. Understanding the underlying causes of each condition and symptoms may help people to better prepare themselves for the next time they are faced with the affections and possibly save someone’s life.

George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Alan Thicke, and Debbie Reynolds are only several notable accounts who died of heart complications. However, reports state that the beloved singer, George Michael, died peacefully in his sleep from heart failure, while Thicke had a ruptured aorta, according to his death certificate. So, even though the conditions are related, they are completely different things, say doctors.

Heart Failure

This condition has been described by the American Heart Association as the heart’s inability to push blood through the circulatory system to body’s vital organs and tissues. Congestive heart failure, on the other hand, refers to faulty blood flow which has been restricted by blood returning to the heart’s chambers, ultimately causing a congestion, much similar to a traffic jam.

The difference between heart failure and heart attack is that one leads to the other. Also, most susceptible to heart failure are people who suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure, or obesity.

Heart Attack

Scientifically known as “myocardial infarction”, a heart attack occurs when circulation has been cut off in one way or another, most commonly after an edema (previously referred to as “traffic jam”) forms and can no longer reach the heart muscle.

While heart conditions tend to run in the family, a heart attack could be brought on by a lack of exercise, unbalanced diet combined with lack of sleep, and cigarette smoking.

Cardiac Arrest

A heart attack left untreated leads to cardiac arrest and ultimately death, says Dr. Nieca Goldberg, head of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at Langone Medical Center in New York City and spokeswoman for the American Heart Association.

Cardiac arrest is characterized by rapid and irregular heart rhythm, which leads to the muscle’s inability to pump blood effectively. Loss of consciousness and breathing problems soon follow, ultimately leading to the patient’s death.

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