Stroke vs heart attack: signs and difference

Stroke vs heart attack

Heart attack and stroke are the leading causes of death in America. About 800,000 heart attacks and strokes occur each year. Both heart attacks and strokes happen suddenly and require urgent medical attention. A stroke-like heart attack occurs when blood flow to the critical body parts is interrupted or reduced, preventing tissue from getting oxygen and nutrients.

Recognizing the different symptoms of a stroke and heart attack can make a big difference in getting the right help. So, stroke vs heart attack: what’s the difference?

Stroke vs heart attack: what’s the difference?

Both stroke and heart attack result from a lack of oxygen-rich blood flow that is essential for the normal functioning of the brain and heart. They are life-threatening conditions and can lead to long-term disability. Stroke vs heart has many common symptoms. However, they have a significant difference: stroke results from blockages of blood flow to the brain, while heart attack results from blockages to the heart.

What is a heart attack?

A heart attack is known as myocardial infarction (MI). This can occur due to severely reduced or blocked blood flow to the heart. Accumulation of plaque within a blood vessel leads to vessel narrowing. Fat and cholesterol (atherosclerosis) create blockages in blood flow.

Atherosclerosis causes ischemia preventing blood flow to the heart. Additionally, plaque may form a blood clot that cuts off blood flow to the heart muscle. Heart cells become damaged when the heart muscle doesn’t receive nutrient and oxygen-rich blood.

What is a stroke?

It’s a life-threatening condition that occurs when there is a lack of blood flow to the brain. As a result, the brain doesn’t receive the oxygen it needs for normal functioning, leading to the death of brain cells.

What are the symptoms of heart attack and stroke?

The common symptoms of heart attack and stroke can abruptly appear and depend on the following:

  • age and gender;
  • overall health conditions;
  • the severity of the episode.

Stroke symptoms

  • Symptoms related to stroke include:
  • confusion and difficulty in speech
  • issues with coordination and dizziness
  • severe headache with no cause
  • weakness in the face or limbs, especially affecting only one side of the body
  • difficulty speaking

When someone experiences signs of stroke, remember to act F.A.S.T.!

Face: Facial drooping

Arms: Arms weakness. Does one arm drift downward, or is one arm unable to rise?

Speech: slurred speech

Time: Act quickly; if someone experiences any one (or more) of the above symptoms, call 911 immediately.

Heart attack symptoms

The primary symptom of a heart attack is chest pain or discomfort on the left or middle part of the chest. The individual may feel pressure or intense pain, usually lasting more than 3 minutes. Other symptoms include:

  • shortness of breath
  • lightheadedness
  • pain in the neck, back, shoulder, or arms
  • nausea or vomiting
  • sweating

For checking your heart health condition, use a portable EKG monitor. Read here how to use it.

What are the causes of heart attack and stroke?

Blocked arteries are the leading cause of strokes and heart attacks.

Stroke causes

There are two leading causes of stroke:

  • A blocked artery causes ischemic stroke (the most common type). This occurs because the brain’s blood vessels narrow, leading to severely reduced blood flow, known as ischemia. Fatty deposits that build up in blood vessels or by blood clots cut off circulation to the brain, causing a stroke.
  • Hemorrhagic stroke. It happens because of the leaking or bursting of a blood vessel in the brain. Brain hemorrhages can result from many conditions that affect the blood vessels. They include:
  1. Ischemic stroke leading to hemorrhage
  2. Uncontrolled high blood pressure
  3. Protein deposits in blood vessel walls
  4. Over-treatment with blood thinners

Also, some individuals may experience temporary disruption of blood flow to the brain, known as a ministroke. Transient ischemic attack (T.I.A.) may last as little as five minutes.

Heart attack causes

As mentioned, coronary artery disease (CAD) is the leading cause of heart attacks. Other health conditions that increase the risk of a heart attack include:

  • high blood pressure
  • obesity and high cholesterol
  • bad habits such as drinking alcohol and smoking
  • a diet high in fat, salt, and sugar
  • lack of physical activity

Find out more about the reasons for heart disease here.

A quick response is essential when someone experiences one of these life-threatening conditions. Although such risk factors as genetics and age are uncontrollable, many lifestyle risk factors can be addressed to minimize your chances of having a stroke or heart attack. These include eating healthy, exercising, not smoking, and managing existing health conditions.

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