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What is cardiac arrest?

Cardiac arrest is when the heart suddenly stops beating normally and cannot pump blood to the rest of the body.

What is cardiac arrest?

The heart suddenly stops beating normally and cannot pump blood effectively. 

  • Most occur at home or in public places  
  • Few survive cardiac arrests that happen at home or public places  
  • Survival doubles with immediate action.

It can happen right before your eyes to someone who’s not a stranger

Michelle  Saved daughter with CPR

Signs of cardiac arrest
  • Cardiac arrest happens suddenly. There are usually no warning signs.
  • The person collapses. They don't respond to touch or sound.
  • They either make gasping sounds or stop breathing entirely.

Cardiac arrest is a medical emergency. Without your fast action, they may not survive.

What to do?
  1. Phone 9-1-1 and shout for an AED.
  2. Start pushing hard and fast in the centre of their chest.
      Think of the beat of the song "Stayin' Alive" to get the right rhythm.
      Don't stop until someone else can take over or the person begins to respond.
  3. Use an AED if one is available.
      AEDs are safe and simple to use.
      Turn it on and follow the simple voice prompts that tell you everything you need to do. It will not deliver a shock unless needed.

You are the person's best chance. Have the courage to act quickly.


Don’t wait for EMS to arrive – they may be several minutes away.

Don’t wait for someone else to step in. the most effective CPR starts immediately.

Doing CPR – even if it is not perfect – gives the person their best chance.


Who is at risk?

Cardiac arrest can occur:

  • At any age.
  • At any time.
  • To people of all fitness levels.
  • Without warning.
Causes of Cardiac Arrest 

Most cardiac arrests are caused by arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) that may not be diagnosed ahead of time.

Other causes include:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Heart attack
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Electrocution, drowning, choking, trauma, respiratory distress
  • Recreational drug use
 
The difference between a cardiac arrest and a heart attack

Cardiac arrest and heart attack are not the same, although people often confuse the terms. Both are medical emergencies.

What?

Cardiac Arrest

  • The heart has stopped pumping
  • Caused by an abnormal heart rhythm
  • The heart  cannot pump blood to the rest of the body
  • It is a medical emergency
  • Death occurs in minutes without immediate action.

Heart Attack

  • The heart is not getting enough blood so it starts to die
  • Caused be a blockage of blood flow to the heart 
  • The heart is continues to pump blood
  • It is a medical emergency
  • Damage to the heart increases with every minute of treatment delay
     

What does it look like?

Cardiac Arrest

  • Sudden  collapse 
  • Unresponsive to touch or sound
  • Not breathing or making gasping sounds

Heart Attack

  • Person is generally conscious. 
  • Signs include: 
    • Chest or upper body discomfort
    • Sweating
    • Nausea
    • Shortness of breath,
    • Light headedness

What to do?

Cardiac Arrest

  • Call  9-1-1 and shout for a defibrillator
  • Start CPR  
  • Use a defibrillator as soon as it arrives
  • Don't hesitate. This is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention


Heart Attack

  • Call 9-1-1
  • Stop all activity. Sit or lie down
  • Take your nitroglycerin.
  • Chew Aspirin® (ASA) (one 325 mg or two 81 mg tablets). Rest and wait
A heart attack can turn into cardiac arrest if it is severe enough.

When the heart stops beating, blood is not circulating. Brain death can begin in as little as 3 minutes. 

Your immediate action can more than double the chance of surviving. Learn about CPR and how to use an AED.


Related information

You don’t need training to learn how to save a life but CPR training will increase your confidence to act. Check out our  professional and public courses 

Arrhythmia

Heart emergency signs  

Risk and prevention

Healthy eating