Understanding heart attacks

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Not to be confused with cardiac arrest, a heart attack is a problem with circulation. It occurs when the blood flow to the heart is blocked. If the blockage isn’t fixed quickly, the part of the heart which normally receives this oxygen-rich blood then begins to die.


Symptoms of a heart attack begin slowly and may persist for hours to weeks before the heart attack. Unlike cardiac arrest the heart usually does not stop being. Symptoms may include:

  • Immediate and include intense discomfort in the chest or other upper body areas. 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweats
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Back or jaw pain

It is important to note heart attack symptom may differ between men and women. 


Call 000 on any potential heart attack, even if you’re not sure. Have the patient sit down in a location in which they are supported. Monitor their level of response until emergency services arrive. 

How are heart attacks different than cardiac arrest?

Cardiac arrest is when the heart malfunctions and stops beating unexpectedly. This electrical malfunction causes an irregular heartbeat. This disruption means the heart can’t pump blood throughout the body. Most heart attacks don’t lead to cardiac arrest, however when cardiac arrest does occur heart attack is the common cause. 

If cardiac arrest occurs it is important to follow the cardiac arrest chain of survival.

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