Do you know the difference between a stroke and a heart attack? Sometimes it seems like these terms are used interchangeably, but they really are two different things with the same origin, blocked blood vessels.
Heart Attack – Cause and Symptoms
A heart attack occurs when the flow of blood to the heart is stopped by a blockage. The coronary arteries feed the heart it’s blood supply. Even though the heart is responsible for receiving blood from and pumping blood to the body, it’s a muscle that requires blood just like like all other muscles. Fat, cholesterol along with other substances form a plaque in the vessel. That plaque continues to build up until it fully blocks the vessel making it impossible for blood to pass through. Once the heart looses its blood supply it stops. These blockages can be opened through the use of a coronary stent which is a metal scaffold used to prop the artery open. Some people require open heart surgery to have a bypass. This means a graft is used to send blood around the blockage.
Symptoms of heart attack include, but are not limited to:
- Chest discomfort or pain
- Upper body pain (arms, jaw, neck, back, etc.)
- Stomach pain
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
Symptoms in women may vary. A woman may have all or none of the above symptoms. They may also experience sudden onset of weakness or the feeling of illness without chest pain, sleep disturbance, and an unusual feeling or discomfort in the back. The primary issue with women is they tend to ignore the symptoms until it’s too late. This is the primary reason a woman is more likely to die from a heart attack than a man even though the chances of having a heart attack are about the same.
The symptoms may come on gradually and build throughout the day. It’s important to call 9-1-1 or seek immediate medical attention. Hospitals are set up to immediately intervene on someone having a heart attack. There is a measure called door-to-balloon time. This is the amount of time it takes to move a patient diagnosed with a heart attack from the ER to the catheter lab where they will perform an angioplasty (opening of the vessel using a balloon). The optimal time is 90 minutes to restore blood flow to the heart. Every second counts when treating a heart attack victim. Roughly 785,000 people have a heart attack every year, and 470,000 of those will have another one according to the American Heart Association. Find out more at SecondsCount.org.
Stroke – Cause and Symptoms
A stroke is caused by either a blocked blood vessel or bleeding into the brain. When a blood vessel is blocked it’s referred to as an ischemic stroke, meaning the blood vessel has narrowed not allowing blood to pass through. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel bursts. 80% of strokes are ischemic. Carotid artery disease is a common cause of stroke. This is a blockage of the carotid arteries (one or both) which is responsible for supplying blood to the front part of the brain where speech, language, personality, sensory and motor functions reside.
The symptoms of a stroke include, but are not limited to
- Sudden loss of vision, blurred vision, or difficulty in seeing out of one or both eyes
- Weakness, tingling, or numbness on one side of the face, one side of the body, or in one arm or leg
- Sudden difficulty in walking, loss of balance, lack of coordination
- Sudden dizziness and/or confusion
- Difficulty speaking (aphasia)
- Sudden severe headache
- Problems with memory
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
The signs of a stroke are much more immediate unlike with a heart attack. The signs in both men and women are very similar. Within seconds of a stroke a brain deprived of oxygen begins to experience damage. Brain cells begin to die. This can have a long lasting impact on the patient. You can act FAST to remember the signs of a stroke. F – Face, ask the person to smile, look for droop; A – Arms, ask the person to raise their arms, look for one lower than the other; S – Speech, ask the person to repeat a phrase, look for slurring; T – Time, if you observe these signs call 9-1-1 immediately. For more information visit the National Stroke Association.
Preventing Heart Attacks and Stroke
Heart disease and Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) are the primary drivers of heart attack and stroke respectively. Both of these conditions can be prevented through lifestyle changes. Heart disease kills 50,000 African-American women a year. 49% of African-American women over the age of 20 have heart disease. African-Americans in general have the highest risk of stroke simply because of higher number of risk factors and less access to medical care. Our sedentary lifestyles in the US have led to being overweight and obese, our nutrition is leading to diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and smoking is the cherry on the sundae. You can remain heart healthy by engaging in regular exercise, even a 30-minute walk three times a week can make a difference. Eat a balanced diet full of vitamins, minerals, fat and water. Reduce your sodium and sugar intake. Stop smoking if you do and if you don’t, limit or eliminate your exposure to second-hand smoke. Manage your stress, blood pressure and cholesterol. Consult a physician today to find out your health status, risk factors and make a plan to save your life or that of someone you love. Share this post with someone you love right now.
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