Many people don’t realize that there is a difference between a cardiac arrest, heart attack, and stroke. Even though all of these problems are related to the heart, they affect the body in a different way.

Each of these conditions has different symptoms and occurs because of different reasons. These heart issues require an immediate treatment, which is why you need to be able to identify the problem in question.

Here is the difference between a cardiac arrest, heart attack, and stroke.

Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac arrest is a disorder of the electrical activity of the heart that occurs suddenly and usually without any warning. This heart problem causes an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) and a disrupted pumping action.

When someone experiences a cardiac arrest, their heart is unable to pump blood to the lungs, brain, and other organs.

The person loses consciousness, has no pulse, and the heart stops beating. In case the victim doesn’t receive an immediate treatment, death occurs within minutes.

The symptoms of a cardiac arrest and a heart attack are very similar. However, these two conditions can be distinguished by the accompanying symptoms and the length of the signs.

The symptoms of a cardiac arrest, which resemble those of a heart attack, are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness
  • Chest pain
  • Extreme irregularity of the heart beat
  • Blackouts
  • Fainting

The symptoms that distinguish a cardiac arrest from a heart attack include:

  • Loss of breath
  • Sudden collapse
  • No pulse
  • No response

These symptoms occur suddenly and, in most cases, cause instant death.

Heart Attack

A heart attack takes place when a blocked artery prevents the blood filled with oxygen from reaching the heart muscle.

In case the blocked artery is not rapidly reopened, the section of the heart, which is nourished by that artery, starts to die.

Unlike with a cardiac arrest, during a heart attack, the victim has a pulse and the heart does not stop beating.

The symptoms of a heart attack may appear suddenly. However, most commonly they occur slowly and persist for hours, days, or weeks before experiencing a heart attack. These symptoms include:

  • Body aches (the most common types are arm, jaw, neck, abdomen, and back pain)
  • Chest pain (the pain occurs in the middle part of the chest, lasts for several minutes, and, sometimes, it can disappear and return back later)
  • Cold sweats
  • Coughing
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Wheezing and shortness of breath


A stroke is a disorder of the brain. There are three types of a stroke, ischemic stroke, transient ischemic stroke, and hemorrhagic stroke.

Ischemic stroke takes place when the brain cells start to die. This occurs when a blocked artery fails to deliver blood rich in oxygen to the brain.

Transient ischemic stroke appears when the artery, which carries the oxygen-rich blood, is temporarily blocked, causing a mini stroke. Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a ruptured artery in the brain begins to destroy brain cells.

The symptoms of a stroke are:

  • Disrupted speech
  • Confusion and trouble understanding
  • Inability to walk
  • Weakness, numbness, or paralysis in the face, arms, and legs
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Sickness, dizziness, and vomiting
  • Blurred vision in one or both eyes, or double seeing