What is The Difference Between a Heart Attack and a Stroke?

You may have some previous knowledge about heart attacks and strokes, but maybe you're not quite sure how exactly they're different. Maybe the extent of your knowledge is that heart attacks occur in the heart and strokes occur in the brain. While a heart attack is certainly different from a stroke, the risk factors are very similar.

Common risk factors

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Family history
  • Age
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle

Aside from the risk factors, heart attacks and strokes are rather different. Here is a basic breakdown of those differences.

What is a Heart attack (Myocardial Infarction)?

A heart attack occurs when a sudden damage or death happens in a part of the heart muscle. The damage to the heart muscle is usually caused by a blocked coronary artery which prevents oxygen from getting to the heart's muscle tissue. The heart attack is the most common cause of death in the United States. Every year, roughly 88,000 women aged 45 to 64 experience a heart attack.

Causes Heart attacks are caused by a blocked artery in the coronary arteries, the arteries of the heart that stop or halt blood flow.*

Diagnosis: The first hours after a heart attack are the most critical. The goal is to diagnose that a heart attack has happened, the cause, and protect heart muscle as much as possible. There are a number of tests that the medical team will perform to diagnose and understand the problem. Once they know where the blockage is, they may inject a clot-busting drug to dissolve the clot and restore blood flow.

How is a Heart Attack Treated?

After diagnosis, patients may go through different surgical procedures to fix the problem, including coronary angioplasty and bypass graft surgery. Medications may be prescribed afterwards to prevent another episode.

What is a Stroke?

A stroke occurs when the brain tissue is deprived of oxygen, leading to damage or death of the brain tissue in the area affected by the stroke. Strokes can result in permanent brain tissue damage or death. If the extent of the brain tissue damage is large enough, the person may die. It's the fifth most common cause of death in the United States.

Causes There are two types of stroke. A hemorrhagic stroke** is when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. The most common cause of this type of stroke is high blood pressure.

The second type is an ischemic stroke. This when a blood vessel that brings blood to the brain becomes blocked. This can happen with arteries become fully blocked by fatty plaque, or when a piece of a blockage breaks off and travels to the brain and blocks a blood vessel that way. Ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke.

Diagnosis: Getting to a hospital is critical because the longer the stroke goes unabated; the more brain is injured. Time equals brain. If in any doubt, don't hesitate. Get to the hospital as soon as possible. Once there, various imaging tests will be done. These tests, including Computed Tomography (CT) scan or an MRI of the head.

Blood tests and carotid ultrasound may also be used in combination with these imaging tests.

How is a Stroke Treated?

A clot dissolving drug can be used to dissolve the clot, but this medication can only be used within the first couple of hours of the stroke, the sooner the better. Depending on the kind of stroke, other medications may be used such as blood thinners, and surgical interventions may be necessary.

While these health challenges can sometimes come at incredibly unsuspecting times, there are often signs and symptoms present that can predict the heart attack or stroke. One of the best things you can do to identify and prevent these serious health issues is to get a preventive health screening.

They come in many forms in terms of heart attack and stroke prevention, including aneurysm tests, heart disease screening, cardiovascular screening, blood pressure screening, and more. These screening can help you with early detection so you can change your lifestyle and reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Other Things you Can do to Prevent a Heart Attack or Stroke:

  • Stop smoking
  • Physical activity
  • Maintain/reduce weight
  • Control blood pressure
  • Control Cholesterol/statin therapy.
  • Control blood sugar
  • Restrict your alcohol intake.
  • Take aspirin if advised by your doctor

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