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After a person dies, it can be difficult to definitively distinguish between a heart attack (myocardial infarction) and cardiac arrest, which are two distinct conditions. M.I. is from a blood clot. Cardiac arrest is electrical.

As a cause of death, both myocardial infarction (heart attack) and cardiac arrest can be categorized under the broader term of coronary artery atherosclerosis.

The medical examiner may opt to attribute a death to “coronary artery atherosclerosis” or some variation like “atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease” (ASCVD).

Coronary artery issues are most often caused by atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries. This narrows the arteries and can lead to blood clots that block blood flow to the heart.

While myocardial infarction and cardiac arrest have distinct features, they are both consequences of underlying coronary artery atherosclerosis that can lead to acute blockage of blood flow to the heart.

Cardiac arrest is a more common outcome of opioid overdose compared to a heart attack.