Zero Mostel died suddenly when his heart stopped beating

What's the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest?

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At the age of 62, Zero Mostel’s heart muscle stopped beating, which ended his life. Best known for films The Front (1976) and posthumously Watershed Down (1978), what could have lead to the star’s demise? Born in 1915, as one of eight children of an Orthodox Jewish family, Mostel was raised in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Talented in the arts, particularly painting and drawing, he went on to teach the subject and supplemented his income by providing gallery lectures at museums.

His oratory performances then moved on to the stage, in a downtown nightclub called Cafe Society, where he performed comedy.

Clearly favouring the limelight, his aptitude for public appearances turned him towards acting – and the rest, they say, is history.

Cardiac arrest

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) explains: “A cardiac arrest is when your heart suddenly stops pumping blood around your body.

“When your heart stops pumping blood, your brain is starved of oxygen. This causes you to fall unconscious and stop breathing.”

Usually occurring “without warning”, a cardiac arrest leads to a person falling unconscious, becoming unresponsive, and not breathing properly, or at all.

“Without immediate treatment or medical attention, the person will die,” the BHF warned.

“If you see someone having a cardiac arrest, phone 999 immediately and start CPR.”

The causes of a cardiac arrest

The main causes of cardiac arrest include a heart attack, caused by coronary heart disease and heart valve disease.

Coronary heart disease

A major cause of death in the UK, the NHS certifies, coronary heart disease is caused in large part by an unhealthy lifestyle.

Regularly drinking large volumes of alcohol, smoking, and a fatty diet are contributing factors for coronary heart disease.

As the coronary arteries become blocked with fatty substances, there could be warning signs that the heart muscle is struggling to get the oxygen and nutrients it needs.

The main symptoms of coronary heart disease include:

  • Chest pain (angina)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain throughout the body
  • Feeling faint
  • Feeling sick (nausea).

For some people, however, they may not experience any warning signs of coronary heart disease.

A doctor who suspects you might have coronary heart disease, however, can carry out tests to determine whether or not you have the condition.

Tests may include blood work, scans, and a discussion of your medical history.

While coronary heart disease is not reversible, treatment can be implemented to reduce the chance of a heart attack.

And, as seen with Mostel, if coronary artery disease is not taken care of, death could occur.

Treatment of coronary heart disease involves adhering to regular exercise regimes.

Moreover, medication might be offered, in addition to angioplasty, which is where a balloon and stents are used to treat narrow heart arteries.

Zero Mostel starred in The Producers, which airs on Thursday, September 22 at 9.10pm on BBC Four.

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