Difference between Heart Attack and Stroke

Key Difference: Heart attacks occur when blood flow to the heart is restricted. A stroke occurs when blood flow is restricted to the brain. Both conditions deprive oxygen to either brain cells or heart tissue, resulting in them dying.

Heart attack and stroke are two very dangerous conditions and are responsible for loss of millions of lives each year. There is a lot of confusion in understanding the difference between a heart attack and stroke. People generally assume that both are different terms used for the same condition; however both are completely different conditions.

A heart attack also known as myocardial infarction (MI) is a permanent damage to your heart. In order for a heart muscle to stay healthy, it requires a constant flow of oxygen-enriched blood. During a heart attack, the blood flow to heart is blocked by plaque (plak) build up in the arteries. Plaque is hard on the outside and soft on the inside. The hard plaque on the outside cracks (ruptures) causing platelets to build up in the area and block the artery. The blood clot completely blocks the artery and deprives the heart of oxygen. The lack of oxygen causes blood cells to die.

A heart attack can also be caused by a coronary spasm that occurs on and off, restricting or reducing blood supply to the heart. Healing starts occurring soon after the heart attack, however when the heart heals it leaves scarring that can lessen the heart’s pumping ability.

A stroke on the other hand can be referred to as a “brain attack”. This is similar to a heart attack, but this blocking of blood flow occurs in the brain and not in the heart. This occurs in almost the same manner, causing blood to stop flowing to a certain part of the brain and the brain cells start to die, leaving a permanent damage.

There are two types of strokes: an ischemic stroke or a hemorrhagic stroke. An ischemic stroke occurs when a clot is either formed or breaks off from another place and travels to the brain blocking the blood flowing to the brain. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in a part of the brain becomes weak and bursts causing blood to leak in the brain.

Symptoms of a Heart Attack

Symptoms of a Stroke

Pain/discomfort in the arm, chest

Severe headache

Pain/discomfort in the jaw, neck, jaw, throat

Loss of balance

Indigestion, nausea, choking feeling

Numbness/ loss of movement in one side

Sweating, dizziness

Double vision, loss of vision

Irregular heartbeats

Loss of speech, memory

Weakness, anxiety, shortness of breath

Altered breathing or heart rate

If any of these symptoms occur, the person experiencing such symptoms should be taken to the hospital immediately as time is an important factor during this condition.

Image Courtesy: nhlbi.nih.gov, doctor2008.files.wordpress.com

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