People often make mistakes when they refer to acute heart-related episodes is using the terms “heart attack”, “cardiac arrest” and “stroke” interchangeably.

All of the three are associated with the heart and occur for different reasons, have different symptoms and affect the body differently. Understanding the differences can play a vital role in being better prepared to address these issues and seek treatment before it is too late if you or someone around you experiences one of these events.

Heart Attack:

A heart attack is a circulation disorder. It means that the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a portion of the heart muscle is blocked. If the blood flow is not restored, the muscle begins to die because of a lack of oxygen. This causes a heart attack.

The heart continues to beat during a heart attack.


  • Chest pain (angina): This is usually characterized as a heaviness or tightness in the middle of the chest. Some often confuse it with indigestion. It might stay for a few minutes, go away and come back again.
  • Body aches: The sensation of chest pressure or an indigestion-like feeling might be accompanied by pain in the arms (especially the left arm), neck, back, abdomen and jaw.
  • Shortness of breath and wheezing
  • Cold sweats
  • Lightheadedness and dizziness
  • Increased anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Coughing

Cardiac Arrest:

A cardiac arrest is an “electrical” disorder. According to this, when the electrical activity of your heart experiences chaos, it causes the heart to start beating irregularly and abruptly stop pumping blood through the body.

The heart stops beating completely during a cardiac arrest.


  • Lack of responsiveness
  • Loss of breath
  • Loss of pulse
  • Sudden collapse


A stroke is a brain disorder.

There are three types:

Ischemic stroke: When the artery transporting oxygen-rich blood to the brain experiences a blockage, it causes brain cells to die. This leads to an ischemic stroke.

Transient ischemic attack (TIA): When the artery transporting blood to the brain stops doing so temporarily, it is called a “mini-stroke”.

Hemorrhagic stroke: When an artery ruptures inside the brain, it damages brain cells and leads to a hemorrhagic stroke.


  • Mental confusion: You may find it hard to remember names, places, random facts and other things you used to be able to recall.
  • Disrupted speech: Your speech may be slurred.
  • Face, arm or leg paralysis
  • Inability to walk
  • Blurred vision: Your vision may blur in one or both eyes.
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Excessive sweating