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Understanding AEDs: the difference between heart attack & sudden cardiac arrest (SCA)



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We all know the terms “heart attack” and “sudden cardiac arrest” (SCA), but it is important to know the difference so that you know when exactly to use an auto external defibrillator (AED).

If you’ve been looking to buy AED Australia, it’s important to know the difference between a heart attack and SCA so that you, your friends, family or colleagues know when to use it.

What is a heart attack?

A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to the heart becomes blocked. Heart attacks are often caused by a buildup of plaque in the arteries or a blood clot. The heart muscle requires oxygen to live, and the muscle begins to die when blood flow becomes blocked. Heart attack victims, therefore, must be rushed to surgery to fix what is obstructing blood flow to the heart.

Heart attack symptoms can progreen of over hours, days or weeks before the actual heart attack event. The heart will continue to beat but without the oxygenated blood it needs to thrive.

Heart attack symptoms may vary between victims, with two-thirds of people reporting shortness of breath or chest pain and/or a feeling of tiredness in the weeks leading up to the heart attack.

The actual symptoms of a heart attack can include pain in the chest that may spread to the arms, jaw or back. Sometimes people feel stomach pains and mistake the heart attack for indigestion.

Other heart attack symptoms include nausea, sweating, shortness of breath, fainting, abnormal heart rhythms, pounding of the heart, anxiety, loss of consciousness and bluish hands, feet or lips.

If you or the person believe they are suffering a heart attack you must call 000 immediately.

What is sudden cardiac arrest (SCA)?

SCA is when the heart stops beating and must be immediately restarted. SCA, in contrast to the circulation problem of a heart attack, is an electrical problem caused by a disruption to the heart’s natural rhythm.

Most heart attacks do not become a sudden cardiac arrest, but it can also be a common cause. SCA is often a temporary condition that occurs during a medical emergency. A victim may not be experiencing heart disease, but they often experience symptoms up to a month before the SCA.

Because SCA stops the heart from beating, the lungs, brain and other organs don’t receive the blood and oxygen they need to survive. SCA can cause death within the first minutes of the event if not quickly treated.

Symptoms include loss of consciousness, shortness of breath and dizziness. A person will become unresponsive and have trouble breathing within seconds of the SCA occurring.

Once again, it is imperative that someone immediately calls 000 in the event of a SCA. It is also vital that CPR and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) are used on someone suffering from SCA as this can improve their survival rate by 23%. CPR is performed to pump the heart to make the blood start flowing and circulating around the organs, whilst the AED is designed to send a shock to the heart to restart its natural health rhythm.

The most important thing is using CPR and an AED correctly. In Australia, there are bodies that provide training for how to correctly perform CPR and use an AED in the event of SCA, and AEDs are regularly kept on premises to be used in such an event.


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