How to identify a cardiac arrest

Learn the basics

Heart Attack or Cardiac Arrest?


If someone has a cardiac arrest, they will be unresponsive and not breathing normally. To check for a response try shouting their name or giving them a gentle shake by the shoulders. To check if they are breathing watch to see if their abdomen is rising and falling normally (do not place your face close to theirs).

Next shout for help and call 999. The 999 call handler will ask if the patient is breathing normally and talk you through what to do next.

Sometimes in TV and media the terms heart attack and cardiac arrest are used interchangeably, but there are differences. To learn about the difference between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest check out our infographic and a video from one of our partners, the British Heart Foundation.

*The CPR steps are slightly different than normal due to Covid-19 and you if want to learn more check out the latest guidance from the Resus Council UK.