Heart attack or cardiac arrest? Take the quiz to see what you know

February 6, 2017 Providence Health Team

You’ve probably heard the terms heart attack and cardiac arrest used interchangeably, but did you know they’re very different conditions? Heart attack symptoms can happen over the course of hours, days or weeks, while cardiac arrest is sudden and potentially fatal if it’s not treated within minutes.

Find out how much you know about these distinct heart conditions by taking this quiz.

  1. A heart attack occurs when:
    1. Something blocks blood supply to part of the brain, or a blood vessel in the brain bursts.
    2. Blood flow to the heart is blocked.
    3. The heart malfunctions and suddenly stops beating.
  2. What is cardiac arrest?
    1. Shortness of breath due to over-inflation of the alveoli (air sacs in the lung).
    2. A blood clot that forms in a vein deep in the body.
    3. A heart malfunction that causes it to stop beating.
  3. Are heart attack and cardiac arrest linked?
    1. Yes
    2. No
  4. Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death.
    1. Yes
    2. No
  5. What’s the first thing you do if you find someone in cardiac arrest?
    1. Call 911.
    2. Begin CPR.
    3. Give the person a glass of water.
  6. If a loved one is having a heart attack, do you:
    1. Take him to the nearest emergency department.
    2. Call 911.
    3. Make an appointment for him to see a health care provider.


  1. The answer is b. Heart attack, also called myocardial infarction or MI, occurs when a blocked artery prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching a section of the heart. If the blocked artery is not reopened quickly, the part of the heart normally nourished by that artery begins to die. The longer a person goes without treatment, the greater the damage. Symptoms of a heart attack may be immediate and intense, and they can be different in men and women. Often, symptoms start slowly and last for hours, days or weeks before a heart attack. Unlike with sudden cardiac arrest, the heart usually does not stop beating during a heart attack.
  2. The answer is c. Sudden cardiac arrest often happens without warning and is triggered by an electrical malfunction in the heart. The result is an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). With its pumping action disrupted, the heart cannot send blood to the brain, lungs and other organs. A person in cardiac arrest loses consciousness and has no pulse within seconds. Death can occur within minutes if the person does not receive treatment.
  3. Yes, heart attacks and cardiac arrest are related. Sudden cardiac arrest can occur after a heart attack or during recovery. Although heart attacks increase the risk, most do not lead to sudden cardiac arrest.
  4. Yes, cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death in the United States. Over 320,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur annually in the U.S., according to the American Heart Association.
  5. The answer is a. First, call 911 for emergency medical services. If an automated external defibrillator, or AED, is available nearby, use it as soon as possible. Begin CPR immediately and continue until professional emergency medical services arrive. By performing hands-only CPR to the beat of the classic disco song “Stayin’ Alive,” you can double or even triple a victim’s chance of survival. If two people are available to help, one should begin CPR immediately while the other calls 911 and finds an AED.
  6. The answer is b. Even if you're not sure it's a heart attack, call 911. Every minute counts. Emergency medical services staff can begin treatment as soon as they arrive. They’re also trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped.

How did you do on the quiz? Share your results in Comments.

Acting quickly can save lives. Learn the two easy steps to save a life at heart.org.

If you haven’t had CPR training, consider taking a class in your area.

Talk to your provider if you have questions or concerns about your heart, or a loved one’s heart. Use our online directory to find a Providence primary care or cardiac specialist near you.


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