Stroke vs Heart Attack : What Is The Difference?

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Stroke and heart attack symptoms may surface suddenly. Though the two events have some possible common symptoms, they differ greatly. A stroke is also known as a “brain attack.” A common sign of a stroke is a sudden and powerful headache, whereas a heart attack may occur with chest pain. Both heart attacks and strokes are grave and demand immediate medical attention. 

The prevalence of heart attack and stroke is rampant and significantly concerning. Statistically, 795,000 Americans have a stroke each year, and almost one in four occurs in individuals who have previously suffered a stroke. The CDC reports that a stroke is the fifth most common cause of death in the U.S., killing about 140,000 Americans annually. One out of every 20 deaths is attributed to stroke.

About 805,000 Americans have a heart attack yearly, one every 40 seconds. More concerning is that one in five heart attacks is considered “silent,” meaning the person wasn’t aware of the attack. 

Recognizing the symptoms of a stroke and heart attack makes a big difference in finding the right help. The first aid treatments for each emergency are different. Since both conditions result from a significant lack of blood flow to the critical body organs - a stroke is caused by a blockage in blood flow to the brain, while a blockage in blood flow to the heart causes a heart attack, taking quick action can lead to recovery. It can also curb the severity of the damage caused to the patient. 

Stroke vs. Heart Attack 

What does a Stroke feel like?  

  1. Sudden numbness or weakness in the limbs 
  2. Sudden confusion, trouble speaking 
  3. Sudden problem in vision 
  4. Difficulty in understanding words or actions 
  5. Severe headache with no known cause 
  6. Sudden problems with walking 
  7. Loss of balance 
  8. Lack of coordination 

What does a Heart Attack feel like?

  1. Chest pain that goes away and comes back 
  2. Feeling uncomfortable pressure or pain in the chest 
  3. Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint 
  4. Pain in the jaw, neck, or back 
  5. Breaking into a cold sweat 
  6. Pain in shoulders and arms 
  7. Shortness of breath 
  8. Tiredness, nausea, or vomiting 


Stroke vs. Heart Attack

Heart Attack vs Stroke: The Causes

Heart attacks and strokes are often combined as “cardiovascular disease” despite being distinct. It is because they have some common risk factors such as: 

  • High blood cholesterol 
  • Diabetes 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Obesity 
  • Smoking 
  • Imbalanced diet 
  • Excess alcohol use  
  • Zero to no physical activity  

The Aftermath of a Stroke 

Heart attacks and strokes are life-threatening, and each survivor’s recovery is unique. Strokes affect the brain, and their lasting effects depend on the portions of the brain that were affected, the treatment method, and the rehabilitation plan. The outcomes can vary largely. Some people luckily make a full recovery from the stroke. However, some may end up losing their motor abilities.  

The Aftermath of a Heart Attack 

Recovery from a heart attack considerably depends on how healthy one was before the attack, how much portion of the heart got affected, what treatment method was used, and what one is doing to regain their fitness. Most heart attacks leave a person with very little stamina, but treatment can treat the blockage and restore blood flow to regain health and fitness. 


Rehabilitation Therapies for Stroke and Heart Attack 

1. Cardiac Rehabilitation 

Cardiac rehabilitation, or cardiac rehab, is an amalgamated outpatient program that includes exercise and education. The program is specifically tailored to suit the needs and requirements of a patient to help them improve their health and recover from heart attack or other cardiovascular diseases. 

Cardiac rehabilitation includes emotional support, physical therapy, and training about lifestyle changes that can curb the risk of heart diseases. 

The idea is to establish a plan to help one regain their strength after the attack and prevent their condition from worsening, reduce the risk of future heart problems, and improve their health and quality of life. 

2. Physical Therapy  

Rehabilitation after stroke mainly revolves around physical therapy to help the patient regain the strength for basic motor activities, which may be adversely affected due to the stroke, such as walking, standing, switching from one movement to another, or lying down, to name a few. 

3. Occupational Therapy 

Many stroke patients also recommend occupational therapy to help them relearn daily activities. This therapy involves exercising the motor limbs and controlling them so that a person bounces back to normal and manages to do everyday activities such as eating, drinking, swallowing, dressing, bathing, cooking, and using the toilet on their own. Occupational therapists focus on making the patient independent. 

4. Speech Therapy 

Stroke can cause speech loss. Speech therapy is recommended to relearn language, speech skills, or other communication methods. This therapy is apposite for patients who do not have problems with cognition or thinking but find it hard to understand and form speech or written words. With time, patience, and proper guidance, a stroke survivor can regain partial or complete language and speaking abilities.  

Preventing Heart Attacks and Strokes 

Quick response is crucial when a heart attack or stroke symptoms surface, but nipping these symptoms at the very beginning is even better. Addressing the modifiable risk factors for atherosclerosis helps prevent heart attacks or strokes. One can curb the chances of heart attacks and strokes by -  


Heart attack and stroke are both fatal health conditions. Monitor their symptoms very closely and help them keep safe from falls until emergency medical services are provided. If you know or suspect somebody to have symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, please call 911.   

If plausible, keep a detailed and accurate account of their symptoms. This information may help the medical professionals to administer a better-suited treatment.  


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