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Heart Attack Vs. Heart Failure

Understanding the basic differences between Heart Attack Vs Heart Failure?

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When it comes to heart health, understanding the difference between heart failure and a heart attack is vital. Both conditions are serious and potentially life-threatening, but they affect the heart in distinct ways and require different treatments. 

You’re living your life as usual when suddenly, you experience severe chest pain or persistent fatigue. These symptoms could indicate a heart problem, but is it heart failure or a heart attack? 

Knowing the difference can save your life or the life of someone you love. Let’s unravel the complexities of these two conditions and the best care for both.

What is Heart Failure?

Heart failure, often referred to as congestive heart failure, is a condition where the heart can’t pump blood as well as it should. This doesn’t mean the heart has stopped working, rather, it means the heart is struggling to supply the body’s needs. Think of it like a pump that’s losing its power – it can still move water, but not as efficiently as before.

Heart failure can develop over time due to various reasons- High blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and diabetes are common culprits. 

When the heart muscles are weakened or stiffened by these conditions, they can’t pump blood effectively. As a result, blood and fluids can back up into the lungs and other parts of the body, causing symptoms like shortness of breath, persistent coughing, fatigue, and swelling in the legs and ankles.

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What is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack, or myocardial infarction, is a sudden event that occurs when blood flow to a part of the heart muscle is blocked. 

This blockage is usually caused by a blood clot that forms in a coronary artery, which supplies blood to the heart. 

Heart attacks are often triggered by the buildup of plaque in the arteries, known as atherosclerosis. When a plaque ruptures, it can cause a clot to form, blocking the artery and preventing blood from reaching parts of the heart. This lack of oxygen-rich blood can cause severe chest pain, shortness of breath, and other symptoms like nausea, lightheadedness, or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, or jaw.

Causes of Heart Failure

Heart failure can stem from various underlying conditions and lifestyle factors, including:

  1. High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Persistent high blood pressure forces the heart to pump harder, causing it to weaken over time.
  2. Coronary Artery Disease: Narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries restricts blood flow to the heart muscle, leading to damage.
  3. Diabetes: High blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels and the heart muscle itself, increasing the risk of heart failure.
  4. Previous Heart Attack: A heart attack can weaken the heart muscle, reducing its ability to pump blood effectively and causing a reoccurrence. 
  5. Heart Valve Disease: Malfunctioning heart valves can lead to abnormal blood flow, putting stress on the heart.
  6. Cardiomyopathy: Diseases of the heart muscle, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or dilated cardiomyopathy, can impair heart function.
  7. Congenital Heart Defects: Structural abnormalities present at birth can affect the heart’s ability to pump blood.
  8. Arrhythmias: Irregular heart rhythms can weaken the heart muscle over time.


Identifying the specific causes of heart failure in a patient and addressing the underlying factors is necessary. Rungta Hospital specialises in such tailored treatment plans.

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Causes of Heart Attack

A heart attack, or myocardial infarction, occurs due to a sudden blockage of blood flow to the heart. Common causes of heart attack include:

  1. Coronary Artery Disease: Accumulation of plaque (atherosclerosis) in the coronary arteries can rupture and form a clot, blocking the blood flow to the heart.
  2. High Cholesterol: Elevated levels of LDL cholesterol can contribute to the buildup of plaque in the arteries.
  3. Smoking: Tobacco use damages the lining of blood vessels, making them more susceptible to plaque buildup and clot formation.
  4. High Blood Pressure: Chronic hypertension increases the workload on the heart and can lead to the development of coronary artery disease.
  5. Obesity: Excess weight can contribute to conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, which act as risk factors for heart attack.
  6. Diabetes: Uncontrolled diabetes increases the risk of atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease.
  7. Family History: Genetics can play a role in putting individuals at risk of early coronary artery disease and heart attacks.
  8. Physical Inactivity: Lack of regular exercise can contribute to obesity, high blood pressure, and other risk factors for heart attack.


However, through comprehensive cardiac assessments and lifestyle counselling, these can be prevented easily. Thus at Rungta Hospital we not only provide treatment but also counseling on adopting heart-healthy habits and managing their cardiovascular health.

Symptoms: Heart Failure vs. Heart Attack

While both heart failure and heart attacks involve the heart, their symptoms can differ. Heart failure symptoms include chronic fatigue, persistent coughing, and swelling in the lower extremities. In contrast, heart attack symptoms are typically more acute and include intense chest pain, shortness of breath, and sudden dizziness.

Symptoms

Heart Failure

Heart Attack

Common Symptoms

– Shortness of breath

– Chest pain or discomfort

 

– Fatigue

– Shortness of breath

 

– Swelling in legs, ankles, or abdomen

– Nausea or vomiting

 

– Persistent coughing

– Sweating

Less Common Symptoms

Rapid or irregular heartbeat

– Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach

 

– Reduced ability to exercise

– Feeling of fullness, indigestion, or choking sensation

 

– Dizziness or lightheadedness

– Pain that radiates from the chest to the shoulders, arms, or neck

 

– Confusion or impaired thinking

– Sudden weakness or fatigue

Emergency Symptoms

– Sudden severe shortness of breath

– Sudden, intense chest pain that lasts more than a few minutes

 

– Chest pain or pressure accompanied by sweating, nausea, or lightheadedness

– Sudden shortness of breath

 

– Fainting or loss of consciousness

– Loss of consciousness or collapse

 

Treatments of Heart Failure

Treatment of heart failure typically involves a combination of medications, surgical interventions, and lifestyle changes tailored to manage symptoms and improve heart function.

Medical Treatments:

  1.  Medications: Patients may be prescribed medications such as ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, diuretics, and aldosterone antagonists to reduce symptoms, improve heart function, and manage fluid retention.
  2.  Implantable Devices: Devices like pacemakers or implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) may be recommended to regulate heart rhythm and prevent sudden cardiac arrest.

 

Surgical Treatments:

  1.  Heart Valve Surgery: If heart failure is caused by heart valve disease, surgical repair or replacement of the damaged valve may be necessary.
  2.  Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery (CABG): For patients with severe coronary artery disease, CABG surgery may be performed to improve blood flow to the heart muscle.

 

Lifestyle Changes:

  1.  Dietary Modifications: Adopting a heart-healthy diet low in salt and saturated fats can help manage blood pressure and reduce strain on the heart.
  2.  Regular Exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity, as recommended by healthcare experts, like at Rungta Hospital, can improve heart function and overall cardiovascular health.

Treatments of Heart Attack

Prompt treatment during a heart attack is critical to minimize heart damage and improve outcomes. Treatment strategies for heart attack include emergency medical interventions, medications, and ongoing cardiac rehabilitation..

Emergency Medical Interventions:

  1.  Angioplasty and Stenting: This procedure involves inserting a catheter with a balloon into the blocked artery to widen it and placing a stent to keep it open, restoring blood flow to the heart.
  2.  Thrombolytic Therapy: In some cases, clot-busting medications may be administered to dissolve the clot causing the heart attack.


Medications:

  1.  Antiplatelet Therapy: Medications like aspirin and clopidogrel are used to prevent further blood clot formation.
  2. Pain Relievers: Nitroglycerin and other medications may be given by cardiologists at Rungta Hospital who specialize in providing comprehensive care for heart attack patients to relieve chest pain and reduce strain on the heart.


Lifestyle Changes:

  1. Cardiac Rehabilitation: Following a heart attack, participating in a structured cardiac rehabilitation program can help patients regain strength, improve cardiovascular fitness, and adopt heart-healthy habits.
  2.  Not Smoking: Quitting smoking is crucial to reduce the risk of future heart attacks and improve overall heart health.

Conclusion

Distinguishing between heart failure and a heart attack is crucial for timely intervention and effective treatment. While heart failure involves the heart’s inability to pump blood efficiently, leading to symptoms like fatigue and swelling, a heart attack results from a sudden blockage of blood flow to the heart muscle, causing severe chest pain and potential organ damage.
Recognizing the symptoms and understanding the causes of these conditions empowers individuals to seek prompt medical care, significantly improving outcomes.

At Rungta Hospital, we stand at the forefront of cardiac care in the city, known as the best cardiology hospital in Jaipur. Our dedicated team of cardiologists and state-of-the-art facilities ensure comprehensive diagnosis, advanced treatments, and compassionate care for patients with heart conditions.
Whether managing chronic heart failure with tailored medications and lifestyle adjustments or providing emergency care for heart attacks with rapid interventions like angioplasty, Rungta Hospital is committed to excellence in cardiac healthcare.