While the symptoms and effects of a heart attack and a stroke can be similar, they are two very different medical events. However, both of them involve the blood vessels and can be the result of progressive atherosclerosis. This occurs when the arteries are narrowed and blocked by fatty deposits.
In a heart attack, there is a blockage of one of the blood vessels that supplies blood to the heart. In a stroke, the blocked blood vessel is one that is supplying blood to the brain. The heart attack will cause damage to the heart muscle and the stroke will cause damage to part of the brain. The stroke can not only be caused by a narrowing of an artery inside the brain, but also by an aneurysm, which is a weakened blood vessel inside the brain itself.
Some of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack include chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, fainting, fatigue, sweating and cold sweats, nausea and vomiting, anxiety, panic and heartburn.
Because the symptoms of a stroke can sometimes be very similar, it is important to know that there are definite warning signs for a stroke. According to the American Stroke Foundation, these are the five warning signs:-
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body;
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding;
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes;
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or co-ordination;
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
Note that all these symptoms come on suddenly and usually the symptoms of a stroke can be more obvious than those of a heart attack. However, because the person might be feeling very confused, they might not comprehend what is happening to them and because of this they might not take any action. If we notice a sudden change in the behaviour or appearance of someone we are with, we should not hesitate to phone 911. There are now clot-busting drugs available, that, if given within three hours of the start of symptoms of a stroke, can reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke.
Familiarize yourself with these symptoms of a stroke and you will be in a good position to take fast action when you think that either yourself or someone you are with is actually having a stroke. Time is of the essence so please don’t hesitate to act. The life you save may very well be your own.