What Michael Jackson  s Death Means for You

It came as a sudden, heartbreaking surprise that enveloped the entertainment world. Michael Jackson, known fondly as the undisputed King of Pop, died at his California home at the age of 50. Jackson began his fame in the family outfit The Jackson 5 with such hits as "I Want You Back" and "ABC". His fame continued as he branched off on his own selling over 100 million records worldwide. His album Thriller is the best selling record in music history.

While there is still much speculation over the circumstances of his death, the Los Angeles County Coroner's office declared it as a result of a cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest is an extremely deadly and enormously misunderstood heart condition. Often the terms "heart attack" and "cardiac arrest" are mistakenly used interchangeably; however, there are important differences between the two occurrences.

The Difference between Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest

A heart attack occurs when a blockage-such as clogged arteries-causes low blood flow to the heart. This then starves the heart muscle of oxygen resulting in permanent damage or death. Generally, heart attacks are the result of various long term factors-genetic predisposition, poor diet, inactivity, smoking, diabetes, et cetera.

Heart attacks normally start slowly with mild pain and discomfort. During a heart attack, an individual will experience shortness of breath, chest pain, and pain in the shoulder, arm, or neck area. Each year, about 1.1 million Americans suffer a heart attack. About 460,000 of the attacks are fatal.

On the other hand, a person suffering a cardiac arrest is facing an episode that is much different and much more deadly. A cardiac arrest is an abrupt and sudden loss of the heart's function. In essence, the heart completely stops beating. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), unless the victim is treated with a defibrillator-a device that uses an electric shock to restore a normal heart beat-death occurs within 4 to 6 minutes. In 95 percent of cardiac arrest cases, the victim dies before reaching the hospital.

Be Prepared for a Cardiac Arrest

According to the AHA, there are steps you can take to be better prepare yourself for a cardiac emergency:

  • Know the signs. During a cardiac arrest, the victim will experience a sudden loss of consciousness and normal breathing patterns stop.
  • Call 9-1-1. Contact emergency services as soon as you suspect someone is showing the warning signs of a cardiac arrest.
  • CPR. Administer CPR in order to keep the victim alive until emergency services arrive. CPR keeps oxygen and blood flowing to the brain.

While more information becomes public surrounding Jackson's death, one thing will remain true-when facing cardiac arrest one needs to be prepared and act quickly.

For more on heart attacks, cardiac arrest, and everything heart related, see our Heart Health Center.