Cardiac arrest is when the heart suddenly stops beating and cannot pump blood to the rest of the body.

What is cardiac arrest?

Cardiac arrest is when the heart suddenly stops beating and cannot pump blood to the rest of the body. If the heart stops for any reason, blood is no longer getting to the brain, heart and vital organs. Death can occur within minutes.

Many people confuse the terms cardiac arrest and heart attack. They are not the same.

Learn about the difference between cardiac arrest and a heart attack.

What are the symptoms of cardiac arrest?

Common symptoms of cardiac arrest include:

  • Dizziness
  • Sudden collapse
  • Trouble breathing
  • No response to touch and sound
  • Blue discolouration of the face

What are the causes of cardiac arrest?

Cardiac arrests are often caused by abnormal heart rhythms, also known as arrhythmias. Other causes include:

What should I do if I witness a cardiac arrest?

During a cardiac arrest emergency, do the following right away:

  • Call 9-1-1.
  • Yell for an automated external defibrillator (AED). While you do CPR, someone else can fetch an AED if available. AED’s are often in public places. The 9-1-1 operator may be able to tell you where the nearest one is.
  • Start CPR. Push hard and fast in the centre of the chest.
  • Don’t be afraid of doing it wrong. Doing CPR -- even if not perfectly -- gives the victim the best chance. You can’t hurt. You can only help.

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