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George Michael, Carrie Fisher Deaths: What Exactly Are Heart Failure, Cardiac Arrest?

First Posted: Dec 28, 2016 06:05 AM EST

The entertainment industry has lost two legacies over the past few days. George Michael, a singer known for his Careless Whisper song and Carrie Fisher, who played the iconic Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise, died of heart failure and cardiac arrest, respectively. What are these two heart conditions?

George Michael died of heart failure on Christmas day due to heart failure at the age of just 53, while Carrie Fisher died of cardiac arrest on Dec. 27 at the age of 60. According to CBS News, George Michael's publicist confirmed that the singer died in his sleep due to heart failure.

Meanwhile, Carrie Fisher died of cardiac arrest. She was aboard a flight bound for Los Angeles. These deaths are early and unexpected.

What Is Heart Failure?

Also dubbed as congestive heart failure, the condition happens when the heart muscle does not pump blood throughout the body as well as it should. There are other health conditions linked to this disease including hypertension, obesity, diabetes and coronary artery disease.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), if a person has heart failure, the weakened heart cannot supply the cells in the body with enough blood. This often leads to fatigue and shortness of breath. It is a chronic, progressive condition wherein the heart muscle cannot keep up with its workload.

It is a serious condition that needs urgent medical attention. Patients with this condition could experience edema or swelling especially in the legs and ankles. When pulmonary edema happens, fluid collects in the lungs that might impede breathing.

What Is Cardiac Arrest?

Many people mistakenly describe cardiac arrest with the term heart attack. Though heart attack may cause cardiac arrest, these two conditions are different. During a heart attack, the blood flow to the heart is impeded or stopped by a blockage. On the other hand, cardiac arrest happens when the heart's electrical system malfunctions.

There could be abnormal or irregular heart rhythms called arrhythmias. Death could occur within minutes after the heart stops. However, it could be reversed if CPR or cardiopulmonary resuscitation is performed right away.

"That's why it's very important for all of us to learn how to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation," Dr. Nieca Goldberg, a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association, told CNN"That's the first step when someone collapses to help save their life," she added.

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