What Is The Difference Between A Heart Attack And Heart Rhythm Problems, And Can One Cause The Other?

Question: What is the difference between a heart attack and heart rhythm problems? Can one cause the other?

Answer :The news people often get it wrong. They tell you that the man shoveling snow died of a massive heart attack. In general, that's incorrect. When someone has sudden death like that, it's generally due to an abnormal heart rhythm coming from the bottom chamber -- the ventricle of the heart -- going so rapidly, four-to-six-hundred times a minute, that there's no effective blood flow to the brain and an individual dies suddenly. That is the mechanism responsible for that "massive heart attack-induced death."

Now, what causes the ventricular fibrillation? Indeed, it can be a heart attack, but there are other causes as well. Heart attack refers to a blockage of blood flow in one of the arteries nourishing the heart. You must remember the heart is a muscle and needs blood flow like your biceps or your triceps needs blood flow with nourishment, oxygen and so on. And when that blood flow is stopped up generally due to the atherosclerosis problem -- cholesterol buildup and so on -- then the heart muscle does not get its nourishment and actually dies. That is a heart attack: death of heart muscle -- which can cause the arrhythmia ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia, a slower form of the rapid heartbeat, but they are really quite distinct.

Now, there are other causes of arrhythmias -- heart failure, and a variety of things as well. So, a heart attack is very different from a heart arrhythmia and sudden death.