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What is the difference between a stroke and a heart attack?

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What is the difference between a stroke and a heart attack?

Cardiology | by Dr. Ashok B Malpani | Published on 01/04/2024


Most people often misunderstand the two different conditions to be similar, which are stroke and a heart attack. They both affect the different parts of the body. Stroke affects the brain by blocking blood flow in the brain while heart attack affects the heart by reducing blood flow in the heart.

In this blog, we will discuss both comprehensively for your better understanding of the causes and symptoms. So, once you become aware of the symptoms and ever experience them in the future, you must book your appointment with the best healthcare experts, BM Birla Heart Research Center in Kolkata.

Please note that it is research-based information and we do not encourage overlooking the doctor’s consultation.

What is a Stroke?

Strokes happen if blood flow is insufficient to the brain. Due to this blood insufficiency, the brain begins to starve for the required oxygen to function, eventually causing brain death. Strokes are identified to be among the most hazardous conditions requiring immediate emergency care. If you ever experience or someone else is experiencing a stroke, make sure to get medical help immediately. 

Strokes are categorized into two main types that are: 

  • Ischemic strokes- it happens due to vessel blockage in the brain and around 87% of strokes are known to be ischemic.
  • Hemorrhagic strokes- These occur due to vessels bleeding in the brain, however, this type is not very common.

What are the symptoms of a stroke?

Strokes usually occur abruptly and often lead to symptoms such as: 

  • Face weakness or numbness, even in the leg 
  • Problems in vision, while seeing from one or both eyes
  • Confusions
  • Experience issues while speaking
  • Problems while maintaining balance, walking, coordination, or dizziness
  • Throbbing pain in the head

What are the causes of a stroke?

Certain factors are there that cause the risk of experiencing a stroke such as:

  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Smoking 
  • Diabetes 
  • Hypertension
  • History of heart diseases or strokes 
  • Genetic factors 
  • Older age 
  • Regular drinking habits 
  • Illegal use of drugs 
  • Obesity
  • High levels of cholesterol 
  • Poor dietary habits 

What is a Heart Attack?

Heart attack also referred to as a myocardial infarction happens when there is a reduction or stoppage in the blood flow to the heart. It usually happens due to plaque buildup within a blood vessel leading to the narrowed vessels. The obstruction is mainly formed of cholesterol and fat.

What are the symptoms of a heart attack?

One of the noticeable symptoms of a heart attack is chest pain often, experiencing discomfort in the chest’s middle part or the left side of the chest. It feels like a pressure as if something is squeezing, or gives the feeling of fullness, pressure, or throbbing pain. Here are some of the heart attack symptoms that one needs to be aware of:

  • Pain in the jaw, neck, or arm
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating 
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Strong heart palpitations
  • Extreme tiredness

What are the causes of a heart attack?

One of the primary reasons for a heart attack is coronary artery disease and among the main reasons for deaths as well. Other health conditions are increasing the risk of growing heart illnesses or having a heart attack. Here are these conditions:

  • Regular smoking
  • High blood pressure or hypertension
  • Poor dietary habits like not eating healthy
  • High levels of cholesterol
  • Regular use of alcohol
  • Illegal drug abuse
  • Not exercising at all

Difference between a stroke and a heart attack

As per the discussion above about both heart attack and stroke, it is vital to note that they might appear similar but the symptoms for both also vary as they affect different parts of the body. They both are serious clinical emergencies and require immediate doctor’s attention to eliminate the risk. You must get in touch with your doctor as soon as possible if you ever experience the symptoms of a stroke or heart attack.

Foods to prevent stroke and heart attack

Certain food items can be involved in your regular habits to prevent a stroke and heart attack. Here are some of the foods that you must incorporate:

  • Make sure to include fruits and vegetables that are rich in minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. 
  • Include whole grains such as brown rice, and oats, and nutrients filled with heart-healthy properties
  • Choose lean proteins like poultry, fish, legumes, and beans to reduce cholesterol and minimize the heart disease risk
  • Pick healthy fats from different sources such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. It helps in maintaining cardiovascular health
  • Restrict intake of sodium by reducing processed foods and choosing herbs or spices 
  • Decrease the amount of trans fats and saturated fats like fried foods, fatty non-veg items, sweets, etc. for improved heart health

There are other ways as well to prevent stroke and a heart attack such as:

  • Identifying your risk factors 
  • Make sure to exercise regularly 
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight 
  • Quit smoking 
  • Managing health conditions like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. 
  • Taking medications as instructed by your healthcare expert


Summarizing the write-up, both a stroke and a heart attack are severe clinical emergencies. However, they vary when it comes to their symptoms, causes, and bodily effects. It is vital to know that heart attack occurs due to blocked blood flow in the heart while stroke happens due to disruption of blood flow in the brain. One must seek prompt medical attention if warning signs are experienced. It is essential to raise awareness and endorse education, empowering people so that proactive steps are involved to maintain heart and brain health.

Faq - 


Can a stroke cause a heart attack?

A stroke does not lead to a heart attack as it occurs when there is a disruption in blood flow to the brain, while a heart attack happens when there is a blockage in the supply of blood to the heart. 

Will stroke cause death?

Yes, stroke can cause brain death because of disruption in the blood flow to the brain. Timely intervention and medical treatment are immediately required to prevent serious complications.

Is stroke and heart attack the same?

No, both heart attack and stroke are two different conditions affecting the different parts of the body. Stroke affects the brain due to disruption in the blood flow to the brain, whereas heart attack occurs due to obstruction in the supply of blood to the heart.