The Biggest Killer
Heart disease is our biggest killer, and in Australia about 55,000 people have a heart attack each year, of these about 10,000 will die (that’s close to one person every 53 minutes). Estimates suggest between 20,000 to 33,000 people die of a cardiac arrest each year.
Both heart attacks and cardiac arrests are medical emergencies involving your heart that require immediate treatment, but they are not the same thing.
A heart attack occurs when there’s a blockage in an artery leading to your heart.
This reduces the blood flow (and therefore oxygen) to your heart muscle. Without treatment your heart muscle begins to die and this can cause permanent damage to the heart. It can also kill you. Your heart usually doesn’t stop beating during a heart attack, unless your heart attack causes a cardiac arrest. Technical terms for a heart attack are coronary thrombosis (a clot in a coronary artery) or myocardial infarction (meaning damage to the heart muscle).
A cardiac arrest is an electrical malfunction, where your heart’s rhythm is disrupted and it stops pumping blood around your body.
As your blood stops circulating, your brain, lungs and other vital organs are starved of oxygen so you soon lose consciousness and stop breathing. Without emergency treatment you can die within minutes.
What do they look like?
Sudden cardiac arrests usually occur without warning; if someone has a cardiac arrest they will suddenly become unconscious and show no signs of breathing or a pulse.
Identifying whether you are having a heart attack is more difficult and the Heart Foundation says it takes people an average of six hours to get medical treatment from the first signs of a heart attack