Heart Attack VS. Heart Failure: Know the difference!!

~ Dr Brajesh Kumar Kunwar, Interventional Cardiologist, Hiranandani Hospital Vashi – A Fortis Network Hospital ~

Would you imagine being at the receiving end of a possible Heart attack? Even the thought of it can be a daunting experience. The duty of the heart is that of a pump, pushing and supplying blood to the body; each time it beats, it supplies a certain amount of blood. However, if the heart is unable to complete this action and is unable to pump, ensuring blood flow, you are then susceptible of being at the receiving end. However, most people are not aware of how a Heart functions thus face misconceptions and confusion about Heart Failure and Heart Attack come into being. Dr Brajesh Kumar Kunwar, Interventional Cardiologist, Hiranandani Hospital Vashi – A Fortis Network Hospital clarifies these thoughts and breaks down the difference between a Heart Attack and Heart Failure.


Cardiovascular Disease(CVD), which includes heart failure as well as a heart attack, is one of the leading causes of death in the country today. Ischemic Heart Diseases are responsible for 80% of CVD deaths and the numbers continue to alarmingly increase. For people who do not understand the difference between a heart attack and heart failure; here how to decipher it:

What is a Heart attack?

A heart attack also known as Myocardial Infarction, occurs when the blood that carries oxygen to the heart is blocked or obstructed. Impacted blood supply caused the heart muscles to weaken and die.

What is Heart failure?

Heart failure is when the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the needs of the body. It is a chronic and progressive disease, medically known as Congestive Heart Failure(CHF) or Congestive Cardiac Failure(CCF).

Heart attacks are cause by blood clots or plaque (Composition of cholesterol or other cells) in the Coronary Arteries of the heart, which disables the supply of Oxygen carrying blood. When the heart is deprived of Oxygen rich blood, it starts degenerating. Heart failure on the other hand has several co-morbid causes which include Coronary Heart Diseases which ultimately lead to a Heart Attack, Diabetes Mellitus, infections and inflammations, Congenital Heart Diseases and other medical reasons.

Symptoms of Heart Attack is most commonly mild to severe chest pain which also includes symptoms like heavy sweating, bad indigestion, shortness of breath and a tight squeezing pressure band around the chest. In the early stages of Heart Failure you might not experience severe symptoms, the most common include, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, loss of appetite swelling in ankles, inability to perform exercises and water retention or bloating to name a few.

It is the middle and elderly age group which is most commonly affected by heart attack and heart failure. However, with increasing incidence of both these disease, they are also seen in young people. Most important first aid is to identify the disease itself.  Not to confuse heart attack with acidity and heart failure as asthma, this often leads to serious consequences. Both these diseases require medical attention at the earliest; however drugs like Disprin or Sorbitrate can be given in heart attack patients. Anything which suddenly increases the demand of heart, for example prompt physical or mental exertion, cold weather or other associated diseases like Anemia or Thyroid disorder, can precipitate both heart attack and heart failure.

The heart is an important organ of the body and its dysfunction affects several other organs. Taking care of your Heart and providing it sufficient care and nutrition is essential. Quit smoking as it is not good for health and can be fatal. As doctors, we recommend visiting a specialist if such symptoms arise, especially if you are of the adult age group. Work related stress, which is seen to be rising can also cause a strain and have a co-morbid effect.

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