What is the Difference between a Stroke and a Heart Attack?

Stroke and heart attack have a few possible symptoms in common, but the symptoms of the two conditions occur unexpectedly.

Stroke, also called brain attack, has a typical symptom which is a sudden and powerful headache.

A major sign of heart attack, on the other hand, is chest pain.

Recognizing the different symptoms of a stroke and heart attack can make a big difference in getting the right kind of help.

READ ALSO: Heart disease: Symptoms, Causes, Risk factors, and Treatment

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of stroke and heart attack can come on quickly and without warning. The symptoms depend on:

  • Age
  • Overall health
  • Severity of the episode
  • Gender

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Sources: healthline.com (https://www.healthline.com/health/stroke-vs-heart-attack)

medicalnewstoday.com, blogs.stthomas.edu

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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