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Stroke Vs Heart Attack

Which Is Worse Heart Attack Or Stroke

What’s The Difference Between Stroke And Heart Attack

A stroke and a heart attack are two different types of medical emergencies, despite both involving the cardiovascular system to become the main cause for it. The major difference between stroke and heart attack is a stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is disturbed, resulting in brain cell damage. It can be caused by a blood clot blocking the blood artery known as ischemic stroke or a ruptured blood vessel also known as hemorrhagic stroke. On the other hand, cardiac arrest happens when the blood flow to the heart muscle is choked, usually due to a blood clot in a coronary artery system. This can lead to damage or instant death of the heart tissue. If you face any kind of symptoms of it call immediate medical attention, strokes primarily affect the brain, causing symptoms like sudden weakness or paralysis (partial or full), speech difficulties, and vision problems. Heart attacks, on the other hand, manifest as chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, and pain radiating to the arm, neck, or jaw.

Being the leading cause of death in adults in The United States, coronary heart disease is what leads to people experiencing heart attacks – As much as 13% of adults die in the U.S. can be credited to heart attacks.

Whereas, strokes being the number 5 leading cause of death in the U.S., cause up to 5% of adults to die.

While both the diseases, strokes, and heart attacks, are life-threatening conditions and can become cause long-term disabilities for people who go through them; heart attacks are clearly much deadlier than strokes, as they cause much more people to die. If you find any kind of these conditions contact your nearest cardiology clinic and get complete heart health screening tests and services.

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What Is A Stroke?

A stroke can be simply explained as a heart attack but for the brain instead of the heart. A stroke is a very serious condition that puts you in a life-threatening situation and occurs due to the lack of sufficient blood flow to any part of your brain. Two of the most common reasons for a stroke are internal bleeding in the brain and a blocked artery. If any part of your brain loses a sufficient supply of blood, the brain cells present in that area instantly start dying due to the absence of oxygen.

Symptoms of a Stroke

For anyone who experiences a stroke or is accompanying someone who suffers from this deadly condition, make sure to be attentive from the very moment the symptoms started showing; as most of the treatment options for a stroke are only as effective as early the patient is brought in:

Symptoms of a stroke are inclusive of:

  • Sudden weakness or numbness on one side of your face or in one arm or leg
  • Loss of vision, strength, coordination, sensation, or speech, or trouble understanding speech. These symptoms may get worse over time.
  • Sudden dim vision, especially in one eye
  • Sudden loss of balance, sometimes along with vomiting, nausea, fever, hiccups, or trouble swallowing
  • Sudden and severe headache with no other cause, followed quickly by passing out
  • Fainting briefly
  • Dizziness or sudden falls with no clear cause

Causes of a Stroke

There can be several reasons behind the occurrence of Ischemic strokes and hemorrhagic strokes.

Blood clots are usually the main reason for Ischemic strokes – which can take place for reasons such as:

There can also be a range of reasons that can lead a person to experience Hemorrhagic strokes, that are inclusive of:

  • High blood pressure,
  • Brain aneurysms can sometimes lead to hemorrhagic strokes
  • Brain tumors
  • Diseases that weaken or cause unusual changes in blood vessels in your brain, such as moyamoya disease

Types of Strokes

Strokes can be divided into two major types:

  • Ischemic stroke
  • Hemorrhagic stroke
  • Hemorrhagic stroke

1 – Widely known as a “mini-stroke”, a transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a different type of stroke when compared to the two major types, since in a TIA the blood flow to the brain is blocked only for short duration of time i.e. nothing more than 5 minutes.

2 – Ischemic stroke

When there are blood clots or another type of particle that is blocking the brain’s blood vessels, that is called an ischemic stroke.

Another reason that can cause an ischemic stroke, is the fatty deposits called plaque, which lead to blockages by building up within the blood vessels.

3 – Hemorrhagic stroke

If there’s an instance where an artery present in the brain experiences a leakage or it ruptures i.e. breaks open, due to an external force; this causes a hemorrhagic stroke. The leaked blood puts too much pressure on brain cells, which damages them.

What is a Heart Attack?

When the blood flow to the heart is majorly reduced or maybe blocked to an extent, that is when a heart attack occurs. The blockage that causes the heart attack is generally because of the buildup of fat, cholesterol, and other substances in the coronary arteries of the heart. These fatty deposits that consist of cholesterol, are called plaques. And this whole process of the plaque being developed is called atherosclerosis.

At times the blood flow can be blocked if a plaque is ruptured, forming clots. Heart muscles can be seriously damaged or even destroyed due to the lack of blood flow.

A heart attack is also called a myocardial infarction.

Symptoms of Heart Attack

The major symptoms of a heart attack are

  • Chest pain or discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
  • Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint. You may also break out into a cold sweat.
  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back.
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders.
  • Shortness of breath. This often comes along with chest discomfort, but shortness of breath also can happen before chest discomfort.

Other symptoms of a heart attack could include unusual or unexplained tiredness and nausea or vomiting. Women are more likely to have these other symptoms.

Causes of a Heart Attack

When the blood supply that the heart is getting is stopped, that is what causes a heart attack. since the muscles of the heart start getting damaged and eventually die without the supply of blood.

These heart muscles can also end up experiencing irreversible damage if the person is not brought into treatment within time. Moreover, if such irreversible damage ends up affecting a major portion of the heart, this will then lead the heart to stop functioning and halt its beating – this is known as cardiac arrest, and it results in death.

Types of Heart Attacks

A heart attack results from one of the following types of coronary artery disease:


A STEMI heart attack is severe and requires immediate attention.

These attacks occur when the coronary artery is fully blocked, preventing blood from reaching a large area of the heart. This causes progressive damage to the heart muscle, which can eventually stop it from functioning.


NSTEMI heart attacks occur when the coronary artery is partially blocked and blood flow is severely restricted. While they are less dangerous than STEMI heart attacks, they can cause permanent damage.

– Coronary Artery Spasm

These spasms are also called silent heart attacks or unstable angina. They occur when the arteries connected to the heart contract, preventing or restricting blood flow to the heart.

Symptoms do not cause permanent damage, and they are less severe than those of other types of coronary artery disease.

It is possible to mistake a coronary artery spasm for a minor condition, such as indigestion. However, having a coronary artery spasm can increase the risk of having a more severe heart attack.

– 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 01/12/2023

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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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