Heart Health: Know The Difference Between Heart Attack And Heart Failure

Updated at: Sep 30, 2019
Heart Health: Know The Difference Between Heart Attack And Heart Failure

We often get mistaken between the various heart problems. One of the most common misconception that we hold is that heart attack and failure are the same. There is a thin line of difference

Vani Malik
Heart HealthWritten by: Vani MalikPublished at: Sep 30, 2019

Heart problems are extremely common among people of all age groups. There are certain misconceptions that we have, which make us believe that all heart-related problems like attacks and failures are the same. Both heart failure and heart attack are forms of heart disease with few common causes, however they are not the same, shares Dr Santosh Kumar Dora, Senior Cardiologist, Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai as he answers some of the key questions pertaining to these two heart related issues.

What is the difference between heart attack and heart failure?

A person suffers a heart attack when blood flow to the heart gets blocked often by a blood clot or a build-up of plaque in the arteries. Such lack of blood flow to the heart can seriously damage the heart muscle.

Heart failure, on the other hand, is a chronic condition that usually develops gradually. The heart muscle becomes weaker and has trouble pumping blood to nourish the cells in your body.

It is possible that a heart attacks can lead to heart failure by weakening the heart's pumping ability. Occasionally a person suffers a heart failure suddenly after a heart attack. This is called acute heart failure.

Also Read: All You Need To Know About Atrial Fibrillation, Its Causes and Treatment

What are the common symptoms of Heart Attack?

Common heart attack symptoms include chest pain; pain in other parts of the body – it can feel as if the pain is travelling from your chest to your arms (usually the left arm is affected, but it can affect both arms), jaw, throat, neck, back and abdomen; feeling lightheaded or dizzy; sweating; shortness of breath; nausea or vomiting; an overwhelming sense of anxiety (similar to having a panic attack); coughing or wheezing.

What are the common symptoms of Heart Failure?

Some of the classic heart failure symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath (especially when lying down)
  • Swelling around your ankles, legs, or stomach and weight gain from retaining fluid
  • Wheezing or coughing
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Tiredness
  • Confusion

What is the treatment for a Heart Attack?

Heart attack requires emergency assessment and treatment. Heart-attack sufferers thus fare best when they get to the hospital within one hour after symptoms start.  You will usually be admitted to emergency department/ward or ICU for evaluation. A heart attack is usually suspected by typical clinical presentation or symptoms and is confirmed by carrying out tests such as ECG or electrocardiogram, blood test and 2D-Echocardiogram.  The doctor usually either performs primary angioplasty to open the blocked artery or gives medicine to dissolve the clot obstructing the artery.

Also Read: Everything That Happens In A Heart Failure

What is the treatment for Heart Failure?

Heart failure treatment ranges from drug therapy, lifestyle modifications and surgical treatment. Doctors prescribed drugs include those to lower blood pressure, to slow the heart rate, to increase the urine output to decrease congestion, to improve the heart’s pumping function, to decease the load on heart etc.  Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, losing weight, exercising regularly, cutting down salt etc also play a major role in controlling heart failure related complications.

As heart failure gets worse, you may need surgery to get a device that will help your heart. In severe cases, a heart transplantation may be required.

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