Strokes and Heart Attacks. What's the Difference?

While their symptoms and effects can be similar and therefore confusing, strokes and heart attacks are nonetheless two different medical events.

They are both vascular events, meaning they involve the blood vessels and particularly the arteries.

With heart attacks, there is a deprivation of the blood supply to the heart, causing a part of the heart to die. With stroke, there is a deprivation of the blood supply to the brain, causing a part of the brain to die. Both also can lead to death. To that extent, these are similar events.

However, the mechanisms which cause stroke and heart attack can be quite varied. Heart attacks are almost always the result of progressive coronary artery disease, in which arteries are narrowed and blocked by fatty deposits. The narrowed arteries are then susceptible to formation of a clot, which blocks blood flow to the heart.

Similar blockages can occur in the arteries supplying blood to the brain, resulting in stroke. There are also two other common causes of strokes. One occurs when the arteries to the heart are narrowed and a piece of the fatty tissue or clot called an 'embolus' breaks off and travels to the brain, blocking the blood supply. Another type of stroke occurs when a blood vessel bleeds into the brain itself. The bleeding results from a variety of causes, including hypertension (high blood pressure). 


Until then,

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