Your Health tlong05 | 8 years ago

What's the Difference Between a Heart Attack and Stroke?

Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States with stroke being the No. 4 cause of death. However stroke is the leading cause of disability in adults in the U.S. This is why it is crucial to immediately seek medical attention if you think you or someone with you might be having a heart attack or stroke. Treatment is available that in many cases can save lives and reduce disability by reducing permanent damage to the heart or brain.

What is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, occurs when blood flow to a portion of the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely. This usually occurs when the coronary arteries, which supply blood flow and oxygen to the heart muscle, slowly get thicker with a combination of fat, cholesterol, and other substances called plaque. If this plaque breaks, blood clot forms around the plaque, blocking off the blood flow to the heart muscle. If the artery stays closed long enough, that part of the heart muscle is damaged and results in a heart attack.

Symptoms of a Heart Attack

The most common symptoms associated with a heart attack include chest pain or discomfort (pressure, squeezing, or fullness), pain or discomfort in the jaws, shoulders, arms, neck or back, shortness of breath, nausea, sweating or lightheadedness. All of these symptoms do not need to be present and can occur in any combination. If you have these symptoms, even if you are not sure it is a heart attack, getting to a hospital as soon as possible is crucial. If you really are having a heart attack, the sooner you get to the hospital, the better chance that treatment can be started that limits the amount of heart muscle damage and maybe saves your life.

What's a Stroke?

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel leading to or within the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When this happens, that part of the brain does not receive the blood and oxygen that it needs to function and starts to die. Depending on which part of the brain is involved and the amount of damaged brain tissue, the resulting disability can include difficulty with speech, vision, or memory, or paralysis.

Symptoms of a Stroke

Warning signs include sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body, sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding, sudden difficulty seeing, sudden trouble walking or loss of balance, or sudden severe headache with no known cause. If these symptoms occur, immediately call 9-1-1 so that trained emergency staff can quickly provide transport to the hospital. For certain types of strokes, there is a clot-busting medication called tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, which when given within 3 hours of the onset of symptoms, may reduce long-term disability. A healthy heart lets you stay focused on doing what you love.  Learn how Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute can help you keep your heart healthy.