Cardiac arrest

What is cardiac arrest?

The heart suddenly stops beating.

8 in 10
occur at home or in public places 
1 in 10
 survive cardiac arrests that happen at home or public places
survival doubles with immediate action.
Wendy Swain sitting in a tree

Signs of cardiac arrest

Cardiac arrest happens suddenly. There are usually no warning signs.

  1. Sudden collapse

  2. Unresponsive to touch or sound

  3. Not breathing or is making gasping sounds

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

 Your immediate action can double the chance of surviving. 

How to save a life in 90 seconds 

Do you have a couple of minutes? That's enough to learn the basics of CPR and how to use an AED. Watch our short videos below.

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. Seconds matter. Start 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.


The difference between cardiac arrest and a heart attack

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

What is it?

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, and 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 ASA (Aspirin) (one 325 mg or two 81 mg tablets).

Rest and wait.

A heart attack can turn into cardiac arrest if it is severe enough

Heart & Stroke is working to save lives with faster, better emergency response and treatment for stroke and cardiac arrest