The Difference Between a Stroke and a Heart Attack (and How to Treat!)

The Difference Between a Stroke and a Heart Attack (and How to Treat!)

Did you know that in the United States, someone has a stroke every 40 seconds? This amounts to over 800,000 people per year. The 40 seconds measure is also accurate for strokes.

Many people confuse the two until they’ve experienced one (or they know someone who has). There are many differences between the two, though, and they’re important to know if you ever encounter one.

But what’s the difference between a stroke and a heart attack? You can lookout for a few things as symptoms and a few things that you should know about how they affect your body.

Confused about the differences? That’s why we’re here. Keep reading to learn more.

What Is a Stroke?

When the flow of blood to your brain is reduced or stopped altogether, you suffer a stroke. The lack of blood prevents your brain from getting nutrients and oxygen, and brain cells start to die off almost instantly.

Strokes can end in brain damage, and they need to be attended to as soon as possible.

Causes and Risk Factors

The primary causes of a stroke are a burst a blood vessel or a clogged artery. There are various types of strokes, but as a general rule, some of the contributing causes are:

  • High blood pressure
  • Too many blood thinners
  • Physical trauma
  • Blood clots

There are several risk factors involved with strokes. Some are under your control while others aren’t. Obesity, heavy alcohol use, a lack of physical activity, and smoking are all risk factors within your control.

Diabetes, high blood pressure or cholesterol, family history, and cardiovascular disease are risk factors that may or not be within your control.


Symptoms of a stroke are obvious and hard to mistake for other conditions. As soon as you notice these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, make sure to get medical attention as soon as possible.

Your vision may change. This can include blurriness or blindness in one or both eyes, as well as double vision. You may also have a severe headache that causes light sensitivity, nausea, and vomiting.

Some people mistake stroke symptoms for symptoms of drunkenness when they’re happening to others.

Slurred speech is a common side effect of strokes, so if someone begins speaking in an unintelligible way, look for other symptoms. People suffering from a stroke may also have trouble walking as they’ll lose their balance quickly and even fall.

One of the most well-known symptoms of a stroke is paralysis. This will occur on one side of the body. Paralysis in the face can present in the form of a droopy eye or only smile with the other side of your mouth. It can show as one arm being able to lift in the body while the other cannot.


When you suspect that a stroke is happening, you need to seek medical attention right away. Use the FAST test (face, arms, speech, time) and call 911 if you identify the stroke.

A stroke can cause permanent disabilities if it isn’t treated immediately.

If you’ve already had a stroke or know that you’re sensitive to them, you should work on lifestyle factors as these are the best ways to prevent stroke. Make sure you eat well and get enough exercise and control your cholesterol and blood pressure.

Your doctor may prescribe a stroke medication to prevent future strokes. Anticoagulants, like apixaban (check apixaban or Eliquis prices here), ensure that you won’t have blood clots in the future.

What Is a Heart Attack?

Heart attacks are more well-known than strokes. They also happen when an artery gets blocked over time, but instead of the brain, it stops blood flow to the heart.

The blockages can be caused by clots or buildup.

Causes and Risk Factors

If a blockage causes your heart attack, this blockage is often due to lifestyle factors. The pieces of the blockage are plaques. Plaques are comprised of cholesterol and other fatty deposits. During the attack, the plaques rupture and spill the contents of those deposits into the bloodstream.

If this isn’t the case, your heart attack can also be caused by a spasm. Those spasms may be caused by drug use.

As for risk factors, people over the age of 55 are more likely to experience heart attacks. High cholesterol and high blood pressure contribute to metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and some autoimmune disorders.

If you have a family history of heart attacks, you’re more susceptible to heart attacks yourself.

People who smoke tobacco products, who are physically inactive, obese, or over-stressed are also at greater risk for heart attacks.


Symptoms of heart attacks vary, and sometimes women have a very different set of symptoms than men. The primary ones that you should look out for are:

  • Tightness and pain in the chest or left arm
  • Gastrointestinal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Trouble breathing
  • A cold sweat

You may feel warning signs days or weeks in advance in the form of chest pain after a strenuous activity that goes away after you rest.


If you notice any of those symptoms, call a doctor. It’s better to be too cautious than not cautious enough.

In the meantime, take an aspirin. It can reduce clotting and prevent further damage.

The first thing that your doctor will do once you’re no longer at risk is to suggest lifestyle changes. It would help if you exercised regularly, eat well, and manage your stress.

Your doctor may prescribe blood pressure medication, anticoagulants, beta-blockers, and more. It will depend on your situation and lifestyle changes.

The Difference Between Stroke and Heart Attack: More Than You Think

The primary difference between a stroke and a heart attack is where it impacts you the most. A stroke targets the brain, while a heart attack (as the name implies) targets the heart.

Their symptoms are varied enough that you can identify one from the other with ease once your know-how.

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