Cardiac Nomenclature

When someone is dying in front of you from heart-related causes, there are 2 important things to know.

1. What you can do to help

Your options are simple:

  • Provide First Aid, if you have the qualifications and competency
  • Call an ambulance
  • Stand around gawking uselessly

2. What the condition is called

You must know the name of the affliction. This is so you can shout it out in an authoritative voice at unsuspecting people on the street, in order to sound smart.

In fact, you don’t have to restrict your know-it-all behaviour to the street; you can spontaneously yell “myocardial infarction” or “cardiac arrest” in any setting.

While in line at a coffee shop? Yes.

During a first date? Yes.

While deciding between brands of canned tomatoes at the supermarket? Yes.

It all works. However, remain aware that this might make you appear — quite unjustly — like an eccentric. It might also the reduce likelihood of a second date occurring.

So here’s the question.

What exactly is the difference between myocardial infarction and cardiac arrest? In both cases, the heart fails to some degree.

Myocardial infarction, also known as a heart attack, is from a lack of circulation.

For example, years of junk food lead to atherosclerosis. Fatty rubbish clogs the coronary vessels that supply the heart muscle. The blood supply to the heart becomes blocked.

And while hearts need love, they also need blood. No blood means no nutrients. No nutrients for a long period of time means the deprived heart muscle dies.

Cardiac arrest is from an electrical abnormality. As a result, the heart stops beating.

It’s like when you buy cheap batteries and your remote-controlled car stops working after 10 minutes. The electrical supply just isn’t right.

Myocardial infarction can lead to cardiac arrest, but this isn’t always the case.


  1. American Heart Association. (2016, September 19). Heart Attack or Sudden Cardiac Arrest: How Are They Different? Retrieved from
  2. American Heart Association. (2013). Cardiac Arrest vs. Heart Attack. Retrieved from

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