What is the difference between heart attack and heart failure?

Heart attack means there is damage to the heart muscle, while heart failure describes a weakened heart.

Heart attack refers to an abrupt stoppage of blood supply to the heart muscle; heart failure is the weakening of the heart muscle.

Both heart attack and heart failure are serious medical conditions that can cause death.

Heart attack is caused by sudden total clogging of an artery that gives blood to the heart muscle. This kills part of the muscle of the heart, which weakens the heart.

Heart failure occurs when the heart cannot circulate blood through the body. In some kinds of heart failure, the heart is weak and cannot push blood to the parts of the body that need blood. In other kinds of heart failure, blood cannot get through the heart and it backs up into the lungs, causing fluid in the lungs.

Dr. Sameer A. Sayeed, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

In a heart attack, a plaque rupture in a coronary artery causes a blod clot to form in the artery and causes the artery to suddenly become blocked stopping blood flow to the area of the heart being supplied by that coronary artery. That part of the heart stops working and may die if the artery remains blocked for too long. The rest of the heart may continue beating normally or the entire heart migh fibrillate or beat abnormally ineffectively leading to death. In heart failure, if it is systiolic failure, the entire heart muscle is weak and this is usually a chronic progressive process from coronary disease or other diseases that affect the heart muscle. The heart does not pump effectively and insufficient blood is pumped to the rest of the body and one has symptoms of shortness of breath, swelling, altered mental status,etc. This is not an acute process and is not painful and does not lead to sudden death. A heart attack is acute and sudden and causes a lot of chest pain usually and can cause sudden death.

Having a heart attack means that you have lost blood flow to a part of the heart, and this has caused some heart muscle to die. It is most often caused by a blockage or clot in one of the coronary arteries. Heart failure means that the heart has been working too hard. The muscles have become enlarged and weak. It is caused by a number of possible processes, including high blood pressure.

Joan Haizlip, MSN
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

A heart attack happens when an artery in your heart becomes clogged and oxygen cannot get to the muscle. This causes damage to your heart because a part of the heart muscle dies.

Congestive heart failure is a term we use to describe a heart that is weakened from damage. The damage can be from a heart attack or from other conditions like viruses. The heart cannot pump blood effectively and some blood backs up into the body (lungs, legs, feet). This is called congestive heart failure.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.