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

    Both heart attacks and strokes occur suddenly and require immediate medical attention. But when the symptoms of a heart attack or stroke abruptly appear, will you know how to tell the difference between the two?

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

    Both heart attacks and strokes occur suddenly and require immediate medical attention. But when the symptoms of a heart attack or stroke abruptly appear, will you know how to tell the difference between the two?

    Both result from a lack of blood flow to critical body parts: a stroke is caused by a blockage in blood flow to the brain, while a heart attack is caused by a blockage in blood flow to the heart. The first aid treatments for each emergency differ. Taking immediate action can mean the difference between survival and recovery, or severe damage (and even death) for a patient.

    If you suspect someone is having a heart attack or stroke, call 911 to receive emergency medical help immediately. Understanding the symptoms of each can help you know what to do until help arrives.

    What is a Stroke?

    A stroke occurs when blood flow is impeded from reaching the brain. This disruption of blood flow is typically caused by either a blockage or a ruptured blood vessel in the brain — both instances prevent oxygen from feeding the brain tissue. If this happens, the oxygen-starved brain cells begin to die rapidly, so immediate treatment is vital to a patient’s chances of recovery.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that a stroke is the fifth most common cause of death in the U.S., killing about 140,000 Americans each year. One out of every 20 deaths is caused by stroke. That’s only a portion of the total number of stroke cases: 795,000 Americans have a stroke each year, and almost one in four of these occurs in individuals who have previously suffered a stroke.

    Symptoms of Stroke

    Stroke symptoms are the direct result of brain cells dying due to a lack of oxygen. These symptoms may include any of the following:

    Unexpected dizziness or loss of balance that makes walking or other physical activities difficult

    Weakness or numbness in limbs or face — often only on one side of the body

    A severe headache

    Unusual blurriness in one or both eyes

    Difficulty speaking or understanding communication

    It can be difficult to remember a full list of the possible symptoms of a stroke, especially when they’re occurring in the heat of the moment. The three key symptoms impact a person’s face, arms, and ability to speak.

    Use the mnemonic FAST to help you remember how to identify and respond to a stroke quickly:

    Facial droopingArm weaknessSpeech difficultiesTime: Time is of the essence. If you or someone you know experiences any one (or more) of the above symptoms, seeking medical attention immediately can make the difference between life and death.

    What Can You Do?

    If you suspect someone may be having a stroke, call 911. Keep the patient safe from falls, and monitor them closely while you wait for emergency medical services. Make a note of the time the symptoms began and be as accurate as possible — this information can be helpful for medical personnel when they administer treatment.

    What is a Heart Attack?

    A heart attack occurs when blood flow is impeded from reaching the heart, severely damaging the heart muscle. Most heart attacks are caused by coronary artery disease, a condition which occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries. The plaque restricts blood flow over time, which forces the heart to work harder — and can lead to damaged or failed heart muscles.

    Similarly to brain cells during a stroke, when the heart muscle doesn’t receive oxygen from blood flow, it begins to die. Restarting the blood and oxygen flow is crucial to prevent any further damage to the heart.

    According to the CDC, about 790,000 American have a heart attack every year — and one occurs every 40 seconds. Even more alarming, one out of five heart attacks are considered “silent,” meaning the person wasn’t aware the attack happened.

    Symptoms of Heart Attack

    Heart attack symptoms may occur suddenly or may build steadily over a period of hours (or even days). The most common symptoms of heart attack include:

    Chest pain or tightness

    Unexplained pain in arm or shoulders

    Unexplained pain in back, neck, or jaw

    Shortness of breath

    Weakness, dizziness, or fainting

    A heart attack may also be accompanied by unusual tiredness, nausea, or vomiting; research shows these symptoms might be more common in women than men. Often, these signs are mistaken for other ailments such as chest pain, heartburn, or even a gallbladder attack.

    What Can You Do?

    If you suspect someone may be having a heart attack, call 911 or seek medical treatment immediately. If the patient stops breathing, perform CPR or use a defibrillator if one is available.

    If the patient is breathing and conscious, some professionals suggest taking an aspirin while you wait for medical help to arrive (unless the patient is allergic to aspirin, or has been instructed by their doctor to avoid taking aspirin).

    Prevention is Key to Both Heart Attack and Stroke

    When either of these life-threatening conditions occur, responding quickly is essential; but preventing them from happening in the first place is even better. In most cases, both heart attack and stroke can be prevented and many of their risk factors are the same, including: chronic and short-term stress, smoking, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle. Genetics and other “hidden” factors also play a role in your level of risk.

    Source : www.tricitymed.org

    Stroke vs. Heart Attack: What’s the Difference?

    Stroke and heart attack are medical emergencies. Recognizing the symptoms can help you quickly receive the correct treatment.


    Stroke and heart attack symptoms occur suddenly. Though the two events have a few possible symptoms in common, their other symptoms differ.

    A common symptom of a stroke is a sudden and powerful headache. A stroke is sometimes referred to as a “brain attack.” A heart attack, on the other hand, often occurs with chest pain.

    Recognizing the different symptoms of a stroke and heart attack can make a big difference in getting the right kind of help.

    What are the symptoms?

    The symptoms of stroke and heart attack depend on:

    the severity of the episode

    your age your gender your overall health

    The symptoms can come on quickly and without warning.

    What are the causes?

    Both strokes and heart attacks can occur due to blocked arteries.

    Stroke causes

    The most common type of stroke is an ischemic stroke:

    A blood clot in an artery within the brain can cut off circulation to the brain. This can cause a stroke.

    The carotid arteries carry blood to the brain. Plaque buildup in a carotid artery can have the same result.

    The other main kind of stroke is a hemorrhagic stroke. This occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures and blood leaks into surrounding tissue. High blood pressure that strains the walls of your arteries can cause a hemorrhagic stroke.

    Heart attack causes

    A heart attack occurs when a coronary artery becomes blocked or narrows so much that blood flow stops or is severely restricted. A coronary artery is an artery that supplies blood to the heart muscle.

    Blockage in a coronary artery can happen if a blood clot stops blood flow. It can also happen if too much cholesterol plaque builds up in the artery to the point at which circulation slows to a trickle or stops altogether.

    What are the risk factors?

    Many of the risk factors for stroke and heart attack are the same. These include:

    smoking high cholesterol high blood pressure age family history

    High blood pressure strains the walls of your blood vessels. That makes them more rigid and less likely to expand as needed to maintain healthy circulation. Poor circulation can increase your risk of stroke and heart attack.

    If you have a heart rhythm abnormality known as atrial fibrillation (AK), you also have an increased stroke risk. Because your heart doesn’t beat in a regular rhythm during AF, blood can pool in your heart and form a clot. If that clot breaks free of your heart, it can travel as an embolus toward your brain and cause an ischemic stroke.

    How are heart attack and stroke diagnosed?

    If you have stroke symptoms, your doctor will get a quick summary of symptoms and a medical history. You’ll likely get a CT scan of the brain. This can show bleeding in the brain and areas of the brain that may have been affected by poor blood flow. Your doctor may also order an MRI.

    A different set of tests is done to diagnose a heart attack. Your doctor will still want to know your symptoms and medical history. After that, they’ll use an electrocardiogram to check on the health of your heart muscle.

    A blood test is also done to check for enzymes that indicate a heart attack. Your doctor may also perform a cardiac catheterization. This test involves guiding a long, flexible tube through a blood vessel into the heart to check for blockage.

    How are heart attack and stroke treated?

    Heart attack

    Sometimes treating the blockage responsible for a heart attack requires more than just medication and lifestyle changes. In these instances, either coronary artery bypass grafting (CAGB) or angioplasty with a stent may be necessary.

    During a CABG, which is often referred to as “bypass surgery,” your doctor takes a blood vessel from another part of your body and attaches it to an artery that’s blocked. This reroutes blood flow around the clogged portion of the blood vessel.

    Angioplasty is done using a catheter with a tiny balloon at its tip. Your doctor inserts a catheter into the blood vessel and inflates the balloon at the site of the blockage. The balloon squeezes the plaque against the walls of the artery to open it up for better blood flow. Oftentimes, they’ll leave a little wire mesh tube, called a stent, in place to help keep the artery open.

    After a heart attack and the subsequent treatment, you should participate in cardiac rehabilitation. Cardiac rehabilitation lasts several weeks and includes monitored exercise sessions and education about diet, lifestyle, and medications for better heart health.

    After that, you’ll need to continue exercising and eating a heart-healthy diet while avoiding things like smoking, too much alcohol, and stress.


    That same healthy lifestyle is also recommended following treatment for a stroke. If you had an ischemic stroke and made it to the hospital within a few hours of symptoms starting, your doctor may give you a medication called tissue plasminogen activator, which helps break up a clot. They can also use tiny devices to retrieve a clot from blood vessels.

    For a hemorrhagic stroke, you may need surgery to repair the damaged blood vessel. Your doctor may use a special clip in some cases to secure the part of a blood vessel that ruptured.

    What is the outlook?

    Your outlook following a stroke or heart attack depends greatly on the severity of the event and how quickly you get treatment.

    Source : www.healthline.com

    Heart Attack vs. Stroke: How Are They Different?

    Lack of blood flow contributes to heart attacks and strokes. However, the symptoms and side effects associated with these conditions vary. Learn more at GoodRx.

    Homechevron_rightHealth Conditionschevron_rightHeart Attack

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

    Written by Khama Ennis, MD, MPH, FACEP | Reviewed by Sophie Vergnaud, MD

    Published on August 2, 2021

    Key takeaways:

    Heart attacks happen when part of the muscle of the heart doesn’t get the oxygen-rich blood that it needs.

    Similarly, strokes can also happen when a part of the brain doesn’t get enough blood.

    Heart attacks and strokes both share common risk factors, but they are two distinct problems, with very different long-term effects.

    Juanmonino/E+ via Getty Images

    Heart attacks and strokes are both serious health conditions. The symptoms start suddenly and often come on out of the blue. Their long-term health effects can be potentially life-changing. They share the same underlying cause, and many of the same risk factors — but that’s where the similarities end. Learn the difference between heart attacks and strokes, and how to get the life-saving medical treatment needed when you notice one happening.

    Which is worse, a heart attack or stroke?

    Coronary heart disease, the disease that causes heart attacks, is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Heart attacks are responsible for 13% of adult deaths. Strokes, the number 5 cause of deaths in the U.S., cause around 5% of adult deaths. This means that heart attacks are deadlier than strokes, though both can cause significant long-term disabilities for survivors.

    It’s hard to say whether heart attacks are worse than strokes — or vice versa. Like with many medical conditions, heart attacks and strokes can range from mild and even silent, to life-changing and even life-ending. Many strokes can affect your ability to think, move, and take care of your daily needs, so the long-term consequences for some stroke survivors can be very difficult to manage.

    What causes heart attacks and strokes?

    Heart attacks and most strokes are both caused by something called atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty plaque within certain blood vessels called arteries. Plaque is a thick, gritty material made of cholesterol, fats, calcium, and blood cells. It builds up slowly and causes arteries in the body to narrow and stiffen.

    Sometimes, a piece of plaque can break off and travel downstream where it can completely block off blood supply to an organ or muscle. If the blockage happens to an artery supplying blood to the heart muscle (a coronary artery), that’s a heart attack. If the blockage happens in the neck or brain, that can cause a stroke.

    A note: While all heart attacks are caused by blockages to coronary arteries, strokes can be caused by both blood vessel blockages bleeds. Strokes caused by brain bleeds are not usually caused by atherosclerosis.

    What are the common risk factors for heart attacks and strokes?

    The reason that heart attacks and strokes are often lumped together as “cardiovascular disease” is because they share common risk factors such as:

    Diabetes High blood pressure

    High blood cholesterol

    Overweight and obesity

    Cigarette smoking

    A diet that is high in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt, and sugar

    Excess alcohol use

    Low levels of physical activity

    Over time, these risk factors cause atherosclerosis.

    How do I know if my symptoms are a heart attack or a stroke?

    Picking up on symptoms of a heart attack or stroke quickly is super important to getting the life-saving care you need. The quicker you get treatment, the better your recovery will be.

    Heart attack symptoms

    Common heart attack symptoms include chest pain or pressure. The discomfort is sometimes in the middle of the chest or over towards the left side. Sometimes the pain moves to the arms or jaw. You might also feel short of breath, sweaty, or even nauseated. But not every person gets classic heart attack symptoms. Women, people with diabetes, and older folks can have “atypical” symptoms such as chest tightness, and jaw and throat discomfort.

    Early warning signs of a heart attack might be when you have some of these symptoms with physical exertion, that settle with rest. If that keeps happening, you should seek medical care to check whether you might be at risk for a heart attack.

    Stroke symptoms

    Stroke symptoms vary widely depending on the area of the brain that is affected. The main thing to be aware of is that the symptoms of a stroke are sudden.

    Stroke symptoms include:

    Sudden new confusion

    Sudden new trouble finding words, talking, or understanding normal conversation

    Sudden weakness or numbness in one side of the face or body

    Sudden slumping, difficulty walking, or loss of balance

    Sudden change in vision

    A severe headache that comes on out of nowhere

    What are the lasting effects of a heart attack or stroke?

    Heart attacks and strokes can both be life-changing events, and each survivor’s recovery is unique. In the short term, most heart attacks leave a person with a lot less stamina than they had before, but treatment can treat the blockage and restore blood flow to the affected part of the heart. Your recovery depends on how healthy you were before your heart attack, how much of the heart was affected, what treatment you had, and how hard you work to regain fitness after.

    Source : www.goodrx.com

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