Heart attacks and strokes affect hundreds of thousands of people in the United States each year. Both are serious medical events, and both are included under the umbrella of heart disease, which is the most common cause of death for Americans. However, they’re different from each other in several ways, starting with what causes them.
A heart attack results from a blockage that slows or blocks blood flow to the heart. A stroke is caused by low blood supply to the brain.
Symptoms of a heart attack
The first sign of a heart attack is usually discomfort, especially in the chest or upper body region. You also might experience shortness of breath, fatigue, cold sweat, or nausea. Sometimes, victims of heart attacks don’t experience any pain or other symptoms, though. This is known as a “silent heart attack.” If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, call 911.
Symptoms of a stroke
Strokes are usually characterized by confusion and a disruption in coordination. This can manifest as numbness or weakness in the face, arms, or legs, especially on one side. A stroke victim might also have trouble seeing or develop a sudden and severe headache.
The signs of a stroke are easily explained with the F.A.S.T. acronym.
Face drooping: This is usually seen on one particular side of the face.
Arm weakness: This will usually happen on one side as well.
Speech difficulty: The person will not be able to complete a simple sentence without slurring.
Time to call 911: Just like in the case of a heart attack, emergency help is necessary if the victim has any or all of these symptoms.
A third condition, known as cardiac arrest, differs from a heart attack but can still be related. A heart attack involves a stoppage in blood flow, while cardiac arrest happens when the heart simply stops beating. Heart attacks don’t always lead to cardiac arrest, but they are often the cause when cardiac arrest does occur.
Diagnosis and treatment
Doctors will order different tests based on whether you’re having a heart attack or stroke.
In the case of a heart attack, a doctor will want to know your medical history before using an electrocardiogram to test how healthy your heart muscle is. A blood test can detect enzymes related to a heart attack, and a tube can be inserted through a blood vessel to check for any obstructions in the heart.
Testing for a stroke includes assessing medical history along with a CT scan that will reveal any bleeding in the brain and any areas affected by poor blood flow to the brain. An MRI is also a possibility.
If you’ve already had one heart attack or stroke during your life, you’re likely to have another one. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will go a long way toward preventing both, whether you’ve already had one or not. Treatment options for heart attacks and strokes are available, and they depend on the type and severity of the condition.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. If you have any concerns, please speak with your doctor.
Sinclair Broadcast Group is committed to the health and well-being of our viewers, which is why we initiated Sinclair Cares. Every month we’ll bring you information about the “Cause of the Month,” including topical information, education, awareness, and prevention. February is American Heart Month.