HCA Midwest Health - November 15, 2017

Both heart attack and the more common type of stroke (ischemic stroke) usually have to do with clogged arteries. And many of the risk factors that are within your control are the same. So there’s a chance that you could be at risk for both.

An easy way to tell them apart is to remember what organ they affect. Stroke affects the brain while heart attack affects the heart. An ischemic stroke happens when blood, which carries oxygen, cannot get to the brain due to a blockage or burst in an artery. A heart attack happens when blood, which carries oxygen to the heart is blocked or severely cut off from any significant part of the heart muscle. The lack of oxygen to the heart or brain causes tissues in these organs to die, which affects how they function.

Both stroke and heart attack can be cause death or disability. And there are controllable factors that increase your risk of both, including smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity and diabetes. Other risk factors can’t be controlled:

Stroke Risk Factors

  • Age – Risk of a stroke doubles each decade after 55 years old
  • Family history – Risk is greater if someone in your immediate family has had a stroke
  • Race – African Americans have higher risk of stroke, partially due to a higher risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity
  • Gender – Women have more strokes than men and have a higher risk of death
  • Prior stroke, TIA or heart attack – All increase your risk for stroke

Heart Attack Risk Factors

  • Age – Men over 45 year old and women over 55 years old are at increased risk
  • Family history – Risk is greater if one or more parent had heart disease
  • Race – Risk of heart disease is greater among African Americans, Mexican Americans, American Indians, native Hawaiians and some Asian Americans
  • Gender – Men have a greater risk of heart attack than women

Despite their commonalities, stroke and heart attack have very different symptoms because they affect different organs:

Stroke Symptoms

  • Facial drooping
  • Trouble speaking or slurring of words
  • Confusion or difficulty understanding speech
  • Numbness in the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of your body
  • Sudden changes in vision, such as blurred vision or seeing double
  • A sudden, severe headache
  • Dizziness or trouble walking

Heart Attack Symptoms

  • Chest pain, discomfort or pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweats
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Discomfort in the upper abdomen, back, jaw or arm(s)

If you believe that you or a loved one could be having a stroke or a heart attack call 911 right away. For both conditions, every minute counts. Acting fast can save a life. If you are concerned about your risk factors, talk to you doctor or find a cardiologist.