What Difference between Heart Attack and Stroke?

Stroke and heart attack may have some symptoms in common, but both conditions occur suddenly without warning. Stroke and heart attack are majorly triggered by lack of flow of blood to critical parts of the body.
A stroke occurs when there is an obstruction of blood flow to the brain, while a heart attack is caused by an obstruction in blood flow to the heart. Stroke, also called brain attack, has a characteristic symptom which is a sudden and powerful headache. Conversely, the typical sign of heart attack is chest pain.
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Recognizing the different symptoms of a stroke and heart attack can make a big difference in getting the right kind of help. The first aid treatments for each emergency differ. Taking immediate action can mean the difference between survival and recovery, or severe damage and even death in some cases. Both conditions require instant medical attention.
In this article, we examined the difference between stroke and heart attack that will enable you distinguish the two conditions in an emergency case and what to do. If you must administer first aid treatment in emergency situation, you have to know the difference between stroke and heart attack because the first aid treatments for each emergency differ.
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What is a Stroke?

A stroke occurs when blood flow is stopped from gaining access to the brain. The obstruction of blood flow to the brain can be triggered by a rupture blood vessel in the brain. When this happens, oxygen is unable to get to the brain tissue, and as a result, they begin to die quickly. This is why immediate treatment is critical to boost a patient’s chances of recovery.

What are the Symptoms of Stroke?

When the brain cells are starved of oxygen, they begin to die, hence prompting the symptoms of stroke. Some of the symptoms of stroke may include:
  • Abnormal blurriness in one or both eyes
  • Sudden dizziness or loss of balance that makes walking or other physical activities difficult
  • Weakness or numbness in limbs or face, mostly on only one side of the body
  • A severe headache
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding communication
You may find it hard to differentiate the symptoms of stroke from heart attack, particularly if they are occurring suddenly; however, the three key symptoms of stroke would always affect a person’s ability to speak, arms, and face. So, to better help you with distinguishing stroke from heart attack, you can use the mnemonic “FAST” to identify and respond to a stroke.
  • Facial drooping
  • Arm weakness
  • Speech difficulties
  • Time: Time is of the essence.
If you or anyone around you experiences any one or more of the above symptoms, then it is paramount to seek prompt medical attention so as to increase your chances of survival.

What is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack occurs when blood flow is obstructed from getting to the heart. When this happens it causes severe damage to the muscles of the heart. One of the major causes of heart attacks is coronary artery disease (CAD), a condition which occurs when plaque gathers in the arteries and gradually obstructs blood flow over time. This mounts extra pressure on the heart, causing it to work harder than it normally should, thus leading to damaged or failed heart muscles.
READ ALSO: Stroke: Symptoms, Types, Causes And Prevention
Just as the brain cells die during stroke due to lack of oxygen, the heart muscles also begins to die due to shortage of oxygen. Restarting the blood and oxygen flow is critical to prevent any further damage to the heart.

What are the Symptoms of Heart Attack?

Heart attack symptoms accumulate gradually over a period of days or hours, but it normally occurs abruptly. The most common symptoms of heart attack include:
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Unexplained pain in back, neck, or jaw
  • Mysterious pain in arm or shoulders
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness, dizziness, or fainting
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Apart from the symptoms above, heart attack may also be accompanied by unusual tiredness, nausea, or vomiting. These symptoms may be more common in women compared to men. It is common for most people to mistake these symptoms for other conditions such as heartburn, chest pain, or gallbladder attack.
What are the Causes of Stroke and Heart attack?
Blocked arteries can lead to stroke and heart attack.

Causes of Stroke

Ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke. It occurs when blood clot in an artery within the brain, cut off circulation to the brain. Since the carotid arteries carry blood to the brain. Plaque accumulation in a carotid artery can cause stroke.
Hemorrhagic stroke is another kind of stroke that occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures and blood leaks into surrounding tissue. This can be caused by high blood pressure that strains the walls of your arteries.

Causes of Heart attack

A heart attack occurs when a coronary artery (artery that supplies blood to the heart muscle), gets clogged or narrows, thereby limiting or restricting blood flow.
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Blockage in a coronary artery can be caused by blood clot. It can also happen if too much cholesterol plaque builds up in the artery to the point at which circulation slows or stops.

What are the Risk factors?

Most of the risk factors for stroke and heart attack are similar. These include:
  • high cholesterol
  • smoking
  • hypertension or high blood pressure
  • family history
  • age

Heart attack and Stroke Diagnosis

For stroke, your doctor will get a quick summary of symptoms and a medical history. A CT scan of the brain will be performed to show bleeding in the brain and areas of the brain that may have been affected by poor blood flow. Also, an MRI may be ordered.
For heart attack, your doctor will still want to know your symptoms and medical history. Then they’ll use an electrocardiogram to check on the health of your heart muscle.
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A blood test is also done to check for enzymes that indicate a heart attack. Your doctor may also perform a cardiac catheterization where a long, flexible tube is inserted through a blood vessel into the heart to check for blockage.

What Difference between Heart Attack and Stroke?

The main difference between heart attack and stroke is that a heart attack occurs when the flow of blood to a part of the heart is blocked by a blood clot. This blockage causes the heart muscle to die gradually due to lack of oxygenated blood. A stroke on the other hand occurs when a blood vessel supplying the brain gets clogged or bursts. Stroke is a brain attack that cuts off blood flow and oxygen to the brain.

What can you do When Having a Stroke?

If you or someone around you is having a stroke, call the medical emergency number of your country. Keep the patient safe from falls, and check them closely while you wait for emergency medical services. It would be helpful to note the time the symptoms started as this information can be helpful for medical personnel when they run treatment.

What Can you do When Having a Heart attack?

If you suspect someone may be having a heart attack, seek medical treatment right away. Perform CPR if the patient stops breathing or use a defibrillator if one is available.
If the patient is breathing and alert, you can give him or her aspirin, this is only possible if the patient isn’t allergic to aspirin, or hasn’t been instructed by their doctor to avoid taking aspirin.

How are Heart attack and Stroke Treated?

Heart attack
To treat heart attack, a coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) or angioplasty with a stent may be needed.
During a CABG, your doctor takes a blood vessel from another part of your body and attaches it to an artery that’s blocked. This redirects blood flow around the blocked portion of the blood vessel.
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Angioplasty is performed using a catheter with a tiny balloon at its tip. Your doctor inserts a catheter into the blood vessel and inflates the balloon at the site of the blockage. The balloon squeezes the plaque against the walls of the artery to open it up for better blood flow. A little wire mesh tube, called a stent, may be left in place to help keep the artery open.
After a heart attack and the subsequent treatment, you should participate in cardiac rehabilitation. This can lasts several weeks and includes monitored exercise sessions and education about diet, lifestyle, and medications for better heart health.
If you had an ischemic stroke, doctor may give you a medication called tissue plasminogen activator, which helps break up a clot. They can also use tiny devices to retrieve a clot from blood vessels.
For a hemorrhagic stroke, you may need surgery to repair the damaged blood vessel. Your doctor may use a special clip in some cases to secure the part of a blood vessel that burst.

Preventing Heart attack and Stroke

Many of the same strategies that can help prevent a stroke can also help reduce your chances of having a heart attack. These include:
  • Maintaining healthy level of cholesterol and blood pressure
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • limiting your alcohol intake
  • quit smoking
  • exercising regularly
  • keeping your blood sugar level in check
  • eating a diet that’s low in saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium
Disclaimer: The content provided on healthdiary365.com is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical doctor or healthcare professional.

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