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Heart Attack Vs Stroke

Heart Attack Vs Stroke – Contrasting the Two

According to the CDC, almost 900,000 American adults succumb to either a fatal heart attack or stroke every year. Notorious for being the leading cause of mortality rates in the USA, the rate by which cases of cardiovascular diseases are increasing day by day is alarming. 

While high blood pressure acts as one of the primary culprits behind prevailing cardiovascular diseases, other risk factors such as unhealthy dietary habits comprising food rich in triglycerides and low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are also plausible. Similarly, diabetes, obesity, and exposure to smoking can also cause high blood pressure which could eventually lead to an untimely death by a fatal heart attack or stroke.

Heart Attack Vs. Stroke – The Similarities and Differences

To address the confusion between a heart attack or stroke, consider the latter as a ‘brain attack’. The arteries are the blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood and nutrients to the heart, brain, and all of the systems of the body (with exception of the pulmonary artery, but let’s leave this for later). Any compromise in this transit can lead to fatal consequences. 

What Causes A Heart Attack?

The coronary artery-the primary vessel which supplies the heart-is the main artery implicated in Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) or. Obesity, oral contraceptives, or prolonged stasis can contribute to the thickening of the blood, leading to the development of blood clots.

Cholesterol, on the other hand, has the ability to build up as plaques in your coronary arteries, further narrowing the diameter of the blood vessels and restricting blood flow. Additionally, high blood pressure and high blood glucose can cause significant damage to the blood vessels, thus tightening the arteries, leading to restriction of blood flow, and thus causing clots. 

Once your heart’s blood supply is disrupted, you might feel a sharp and stabbing pain in your chest which can radiate to your left jaw and arm, thus eliciting a heart attack. Another two symptoms which might be slightly similar to those experienced during a stroke include shortness of breath and lightheadedness.

Stroke or ‘Brain’ Attack?

The blood clots can dislodge and travel to different parts of the body. This ‘traveling clot’ is known as an ‘embolus’ which can deposit in any blood vessel of the body. If the blood clot deposits or occurs in any of the arteries supplying the brain, it might cut off the nutritional supply to the brain tissue and cause a ‘brain attack’, known as an ischemic stroke.

High blood pressure can hereby cause increased blood flow resistance due to tightening of the blood vessels. A reading higher than or equal to 180/110 mmHg is usually indicative of a ‘hypertensive crisis’ which can rupture the blood vessel and ‘bleed’ into the surrounding brain tissue. This type of stroke is known as ‘hemorrhagic stroke’, which causes more morbidities than ischemic stroke. 

Heart Attack Vs. Stroke – Which One is Deadlier?

Hypertension – The Silent Killer

High blood pressure or hypertension is known as the ‘silent killer’ because it might not demonstrate any physical symptoms unless serious. A diet rich in cholesterol or saturated fats such as those found in butter, dairy, or red meat can cause constriction of the blood vessels responsible for providing nutrition to the brain and heart. 

Elevated sodium levels can also lead to high blood pressure, which would eventually cause the narrowing of the blood vessels and hinder blood flow. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the average American consumes its daily dosage of sodium from food other than that cooked or added at home.

In America, salt consumption exceeds the recommended limit of 2,300mg/day, falling within the limits of 3,400mg/day. Having a diet low in sodium or within the suggested limit is highly recommended if you are suffering from high blood pressure, 

While there are instances where you can manage your blood pressure accordingly, your primary care physician might prescribe you medications considering the course of your disease. If you have already suffered from a heart attack or stroke earlier, you are more likely to face the consequences of a similar yet deadlier cardiovascular disease if your blood pressure is not under control.

Secondhand Smoke Exposure

While lung cancer is one of the primary diseases caused by firsthand tobacco smoking, secondhand smoking exposure is just as deadly. Smoking is highly prevalent in underage teens – call it peer pressure or an escape to avoid stress – which can lead to a bad habit when adulthood approaches. 

Tobacco not only raises the level of triglycerides in the blood, but it also adds additional resistance in blood flow by building up cholesterol plaques along the blood vessels. The CDC has, however, released guidelines to educate adults and teens alike about the adverse effects of tobacco smoke. With nicotine patches available for smoking relief, other treatments such as atypical antidepressants (bupropion) are occasionally prescribed by psychiatrists in people suffering from tobacco withdrawal. 

Obesity, Diabetes, & Lack of Exercise

In contrast to popular belief, obesity is a disease – yes, you heard it right. Just as there are plenty of risk factors that contribute to the development of a systemic or metabolic disease, obesity to poses a huge threat. According to the CDC, 74% of adult Americans suffer from obesity – either due to lack of exercise, a sedentary lifestyle, medications, or other diseases such as diabetes or hormonal imbalance.

The CDC recommends the consumption of a healthy diet – not only for people who are overweight but in order to promote general health in the population. For those struggling with high blood sugar or high cholesterol levels, it is essential to work with an endocrinologist or primary care physician to help manage your symptoms.

Physical exercise is not only necessary for shedding calories, but it is also beneficial for pumping blood to your heart and brain. You can easily add more lean meat to your diet and reap the benefits of a protein-rich diet in contrast to meals that are rich in trans-or-polyunsaturated fats.

The Final Verdict

1 in 4 Americans is likely to suffer from high blood pressure due to poor lifestyle habits such as overconsumption of junk food or lack of physical activity. Around $216 million is spent on the maintenance of adequate healthcare services annually – and these numbers are only increasing as the years pass.

Manhattan Medical Arts are fully dedicated to assessing and diagnosing any and all risk factors that might predispose to a heart attack or stroke. Book an appointment with our preventative healthcare physician online and receive the healthcare services right for you.

– Disclaimer –
This blog is for informational & educational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute any professional medical advice or consultation. For any health related concerns, please consult with your physician, or call 911.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by Dr. Syra Hanif, M.D. on 03/07/2022

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  • About The Author

    Dr. Syra Hanif M.D.

    Board Certified Primary Care Physician

Dr. Syra Hanif is a board-certified Primary Care Physician (PCP) dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.

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