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Heart Attack Vs Stroke: What Is The Difference?

It is important to know the differences between heart attack and stroke because many people think that they are similar. Heart attack and stroke develop from blockages in the blood vessels but the difference is that they affect different critical functions of the body.

The symptoms of heart attack and stroke also differ. Heart attack starts with chest pain and the latter one starts with a sudden and powerful headache.

The symptoms of stroke and heart attack depend on the severity of the episode, your age, your overall health and your gender. Discussed here is the difference between a heart attack and stroke.

Heart Attack

A heart attack occurs when a sudden damage happens to the heart muscles usually from the lack of blood flow in the coronary artery. The blocked coronary artery then prevents the oxygen from getting to the muscle tissues of the heart.

Most of the time, blood clots form in the coronary arteries thereby blocking the blood flow to the heart muscle which leads to chest pain and other heart attack symptoms.
Heart attacks can result in permanent damage to the heart muscle and cause the death of the person.


A stroke occurs when there is a formation of blood clot in the arteries that supply blood to the brain. The brain tissues become deprived of oxygen leading to damage or death of the brain tissue. A stroke is often associated with losing the ability to move which affects only one side of the body.

Strokes come in three forms which include:
1. Bleeding in the brain which is called a haemorrhagic stroke.
2. A stroke caused by a blood clot is known as ischemic stroke.
3. Narrowing of an artery that feeds blood to the brain is called a transient ischemic attack.

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How Can You Tell Whether A Person Is Having A Heart Attack Or A Stroke?

These are the warning signs of heart attack:

1. Chest pain or uneasiness in the chest
2. Pain that may travel to the shoulders, arms, back, abdomen, or teeth
3. Sweating
4. Shortness of breath
5. Nausea or vomiting
6. Light-headedness or fainting

These are the warning signs of stroke:

1. Weakness in the arms, and legs on one side of the body
2. Facial drooping
3. Speech difficulty
4. Loss of consciousness
5. Sudden severe headache
6. Difficulty in seeing

Risk Factors Of A Heart Attack And Stroke

Both these conditions share the same risk factors, which include:

1. Smoking
2. Family history
3. Obesity
4. Diabetes
5. High cholesterol levels
6. Hypertension
7. Stress
8. Physical inactivity

Diagnosis Of Heart Attack And Stroke

In the case of stroke, your doctor will ask about the symptoms and medical history, followed by a CT scan of the brain. The CT scan shows the areas of the brain that have been affected by poor blood flow or if there is any bleeding. An MRI of the brain is also done.

To diagnose a heart attack, a different set of tests are done. But first, your doctor will examine your symptoms and medical history. Then, an electrocardiogram is done to check on the health of the heart muscle. To check for enzymes that indicate a heart attack, a blood test is done. To check for blockages in the blood vessels into the heart, a cardiac catheterization is done by inserting a long, flexible tube through the blood vessel.

How Are Heart Attack And Stroke Treated?

Heart attack treatment

The emergency treatment for heart attack is cardiopulmonary resuscitation which is done when the patient has no pulse. To open blocked arteries, clot-busting medications are given to the patients. Also, sometimes treating the blockage responsible for a heart attack may require emergency coronary artery bypass grafting. It is a surgery where segments of blocked heart arteries are removed and is replaced with open vessels taken from other areas of the body.

Stroke treatment

If the patient has a haemorrhagic stroke, he/she may need surgery to repair the damaged blood vessels. Or if the patient has an ischemic stroke and made it to the hospital within a few minutes of the symptoms starting, the doctor may give a medication called tissue plasminogen activator which helps to break a clot.

Steps To Be Taken To Prevent Heart Attack And Stroke

Taking the same preventive methods can help prevent strokes and heart attack which include:

1. Checking your cholesterol and blood pressure levels on a regular basis.
2. Avoiding smoking.
3. Maintaining a healthy weight.
4. Limiting the intake of alcohol.
5. Keeping your blood sugar under control.
6. Doing moderate exercises.
7. Following a diet that is low in saturated fat, sodium and added sugars.

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