Heart disease affects a tremendous number of people in the United States. The term heart disease actually refers to several different types of heart conditions, including heart failure and heart attack. Your chances of developing heart disease increase based on several risk factors, including whether or not you smoke, have high blood pressure, or have high cholesterol. Other risk factors, such as family history and your age, can’t be changed. But while they both fall under heart disease, heart failure isn’t the same thing as a heart attack. It’s important to know the differences between the two in case you experience any kind of cardiac event. Knowing the difference can help you help your doctor make a correct diagnosis and begin effective treatment immediately. The Difference Between Heart Failure and Heart Attack Heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure, and heart attack are two different types of heart disease. Heart failure occurs when your heart is too stiff or weak to pump blood effectively to the rest of your body. This may occur as a result of high blood pressure or conditions like coronary artery disease, in which the arteries supplying your heart with blood become narrower. Also known as a myocardial infarction, a heart attack occurs when blood flow to your heart is blocked or stopped completely. Blood carries oxygen to your heart muscle, and anything that blocks a blood vessel, such as buildups of fat or cholesterol, prevents enough oxygen from reaching your heart. This, in turn, damages or even destroys part of the heart muscle itself. Congestive Heart Failure vs. Heart Attack Symptoms In general, congestive heart failure causes symptoms that reflect your heart’s inability to pump blood efficiently. Symptoms may come and go, or they may persist over a period of time. If you develop new symptoms, or your existing symptoms get worse, it may mean that heart failure is getting worse or that your current treatment isn’t effective. Your heart failure symptoms may include: Coughing up white, pink, or foamy mucus or phlegm Fatigue and weakness Irregular heartbeat Nausea or lack of appetite Shortness of breath when you lie down or exert energy Swelling of your abdomen or extremities caused by fluid retention The symptoms of a heart attack may develop hours, days, or even weeks before the actual attack. Some people have no symptoms, while others experience severe symptoms immediately. Major heart attack symptoms may include: Chest pain, pressure, tightness, or a squeezing sensation Cold sweats Discomfort in your arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach Indigestion, nausea, or heartburn Fatigue Shortness of breath Sudden dizziness or light-headedness Treatment for Heart Failure vs. Heart Attack If you have any symptoms of heart failure or heart attack, it’s important to see your doctor immediately for prompt evaluation and treatment. If you have heart failure, your doctor may recommend treatment with: Medications, including those that help widen blood vessels: these improve your heart’s pumping ability and reduce the amount of extra fluid in your body. Supervised physical therapy to improve your heart’s pumping capacity. This includes individualized aerobic and resistance training. Surgery: Surgeries include coronary bypass to get blood around a blocked artery, implantation of certain types of pacemakers, or a heart transplant. Heart attacks are usually treated with a combination of medications to help prevent blood clots, decrease blood pressure, control cholesterol, and relieve any pain you may experience. In some cases, surgical procedures such as stenting (in which a stent is inserted to open blocked blood vessels) are used to supply your heart with oxygen. Keep in mind the sooner you receive treatment for a suspected heart attack, the greater your chances of recovering and living a long, healthy life. Heart failure and heart attack can both be frightening, but knowing the differences between the two can help you receive the appropriate treatment faster. If you have any symptoms of heart attack or heart failure, let your doctor know immediately. Working quickly with your healthcare team can help you prevent complications and learn lifestyle changes to help your heart stay healthy.