Listen to Your Body
Today, coronary artery disease and stroke are the leading causes of death worldwide. This likely comes as no surprise; Obesity continues to rise, as do the health issues that come along with it. Unfortunately, many experts argue that the current generations are some of the unhealthiest to walk the planet.
Yet, knowing the signs and symptoms of a heart attack and stroke can save not only your life but even the ones you love.
While many of these situations can be life-threatening, identifying heart attack vs stroke symptoms and receiving immediate professional medical care can help treat it and prevent death. So, what should you know? What are the common signs and symptoms of a heart attack vs a stroke?
Heart Attack vs Stroke: What’s the Difference?
Both a heart attack and stroke are the result of reduced blood flow, particularly to the brain and heart. A stroke happens when an artery that delivers blood flow to the brain becomes blocked. In contrast, a heart attack happens when an artery that delivers blood flow to the heart becomes blocked.
In many ways, a stroke and a heart attack are two sides of the same coin.
When a stroke happens, oxygen-deprived brain tissue may begin to die. This isn’t only life-threatening but can impact recovery and a person’s entire life afterward. And this is also why many individuals who survive a stroke endure paralysis or other neurological issues.
Most heart attacks result from coronary heart disease. This is when plaque builds up in the arterial wall, blocking blood flow to this vital organ. Similar to the brain, if the heart doesn’t receive enough oxygen, it will begin to die.
When this type of damage occurs, cardiac arrest may happen, which is when the heart stops beating. As mentioned above, to avoid this, knowing the symptoms of each situation can alert you when to seek out immediate medical attention.
The Early Warnings Signs of a Heart Attack
Contrary to what the movies show, not all heart attacks are spontaneous. Heart attack symptoms may sometimes begin slowly, which means it pays to know them.
Some common early heart attack symptoms include:
- Chest pain that starts gradually and then comes and goes.
- Chest discomfort or discomfort in the arms, back, jaw, or neck.
- Shortness of breath.
- Nausea or abdominal discomfort.
- Lightheadedness or dizziness.
While subtle, if you notice a combination of any of these, seek out medical attention just to be safe.
Women and men may differ in the symptoms presented. For example, women are more likely to experience fainting, lightheadedness, upper back pain, flu-like body aches, pain in the lower chest and extreme fatigue when compared to men. Men are more likely to experience shortness of breath, upper body pain and a cold sweat.
The Symptoms of a Stroke
The symptoms of a stroke may be similar to a heart attack. However, there are a few slight differences. Most people will experience a “mini-stroke” or a transient ischemic attack (TIA) a few hours, days, or months before a real stroke occurs.
A TIA can usually be identified on an MRI. Some common symptoms further include:
- Spontaneous headaches.
- Weakness or numbness on one side of the body.
- Sudden confusion.
- Difficulty swallowing.
- Walking and balance issues.
Women and men may also have different stroke symptoms. For instance, women may experience fainting, fatigue, pain, incontinence or overall body weakness as well. Meanwhile, men are more likely to experience headaches, vision issues, weakness on one side, and trouble with speech.
Preventing a Stroke or Heart Attack
Preventing a stroke or heart attack comes down to an overall healthy and balanced lifestyle. Some things to consider include:
- Incorporating plenty of vegetables and fruits into your daily diet.
- Choosing foods low in saturated fats and cholesterol and selecting foods high in fiber.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Exercising regularly.
- Quitting smoking.
- Limiting alcohol, which can impact blood pressure.
- Reducing stress in your life, such as through meditation, deep breathing, saying “no,” exercise and more.
- Knowing your family health history. Do heart attacks and strokes run in your family? This may put you at a higher risk.
- Knowing your general risk. If you have other health conditions, it may put you at a higher risk of developing a heart attack or stroke.
If you have diabetes or any other pre-existing health condition, it’s imperative to have a treatment plan in place. If this is a concern, discuss your options with your doctor. They can offer pertinent health advice for you and your specific situation.