Many do not realise that a heart attack and heart failure are very different from each other, despite the fact that both actually are forms of heartdisease. Most of the time, heart attacks happen suddenly due to one of the arteries in our heart getting blocked and cutting blood flow off. On the other hand, heart failure is something that usually develops gradually. We spoke to cardiologists who list out five basic differences between the two.
1 Difference in definition
“Heart attack, also, referred to as myocardial infarction, occurs when the blood supply to the heart muscle is blocked, starving it of oxygen and causing the muscle to die,” says a professor of cardiology, Dr Sundeep Mishra. Heart failure is debilitating and potentially a life-threatening condition where the heart fails to efficiently pump enough blood around the body, starving all the other organs of oxygen and other nutrients.
2 Difference in presentation
Heart attack is a sudden event which occurs when one of the heart’s own blood vessels is blocked and needs emergency medical treatment. Heart failure is a chronic/progressive disease in which the heart muscle responsible for the pumping action weakens or stiffens over time.
3 Difference in causes
The most common cause of heart attack is formation of blood clot/s that block the coronary arteries of the heart. Dr Mishra adds, “These arteries are responsible for supplying oxygen and blood to the heart and if they are blocked due to a blood clot or plaque (hard mass composed of cholesterol or other cells), the heart muscle is deprived of oxygen and dies.”
There is no single cause for heart failure and multiple existing disease conditions can weaken the heart over time leading to heart failure. Some of the causes are: coronary artery disease, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, valvular heart disease, infections and inflammation, congenital heart disease, prior heart attack. Not all heart failure cases are because of a prior heart attack and not all heart attacks lead to heart failure.
4 Difference in symptoms
Senior cardiologist Dr Santosh Kumar Dora says that there are some symptoms that are common when it comes to heart attacks. These include, a feeling of heavy pressure or squeezing of the chest area, pain in the chest, heaviness or tightness or a burning feeling. One of the symptoms that many people are not aware of at all is pain in arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach. Other symptoms are sweating and feeling light-headed. There also might be a feeling of fainting, shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting when there is a heart attack.
The sign and symptoms of heart failure develops over a period of time. Some common symptoms are: congested lungs, water retention showing up as swollen ankles, legs or abdomen, unexplained weight gain, increased night time urination, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, reduced ability to exercise, excessive fatigue, coughing pink foamy mucus.
5 Difference in cure
Senior interventional cardiologist, Dr Tilak Suvarna, explains that damage to the heart due to heart attack can be reversed by removing the blockage from arteries through medications or surgery.
Heart failure cannot be completely cured, and lifestyle modifications, medications or in some cases surgical options only help in managing the symptoms and improving the quality of life of patients