Heart Attack vs. Stroke – What’s the Difference & How to Spot?

There are many diseases that give quality time for diagnosis and treatment. On the other hand, there are some diseases that need immediate medical attention. According to the doctors practicing in the ILS Hospitals, two of the most encountered medical emergencies are – heart attack and stroke. These diseases are very closely related, as both occur due to blocked arteries, but they are not the same thing.

Perceiving the symptoms in time is very crucial for saving a life.

So what actually happens during the two?

  1. Heart attack– When the coronary artery (the blood vessel that supplies blood to the heart) narrows to a limit when the blood flow gets restricted or blocked completely, it initiates a heart attack. The plague or cholesterol build up are the main causes for the same.Heart Attack - ILS Hospitals
  2. Stroke– When the carotid artery (the blood vessel that carries blood to the brain) bursts or gets blocked, it causes a stroke.
    It is mainly of two types.
    a. Ischemic stroke (the most encountered one) occurs when the blood supply to the brain cuts off due to blockage or plaque buildup.
    b. Hemorrhagic stroke, in which the blood vessel bursts and releases in the nearby tissues.

Stroke - ILS Hospitals

What are the symptoms?

The onset of the symptoms can be very rapid, usually without any prior warning. Some of their symptoms are similar while the rest is quite different. It varies significantly based on the severity of its occurrence, age, gender and the overall health condition.

Symptoms of Heart Attack

  1. Chest congestion or pressure that can spread to neck, jaws, back and arms
  2. Pain in the upper abdominal cavity
  3. Fatigue and nausea
  4. Excessive sweating

Symptoms of Heart Attack - ILS

Symptoms of Stroke

  1. Numb sensation on one side of the body (usually left side), especially face
  2. Difficulty seeing, speaking/ understanding
  3. Sharp headache
  4. Loss of balance and body coordination
  5. Confusion

Symptoms of Stroke - ILS

The Risk Factors

Since both the conditions are related to blocked arteries, they share several common risk factors such as-

  1. High blood pressure
  2. High cholesterol
  3. Family history
  4. Smoking
  5. Aging

High blood pressure is closely related to both of these diseases. The prime reason is persistent high blood pressure that exerts force on the blood vessel, which in turn strains them. This results in its rigidity and thus causes poor circulation, leading to heart attack and stroke.


The doctors operating in ILS Hospitals primarily gather family history and personal medical history as it plays a crucial role in it.

A possible stroke can be diagnosed by carrying out a CT scan, which can depict the area of poor blood circulation or rupture and bleeding. Depending upon the situation, an MRI can also be advised.

A possible heart attack can be diagnosed by an electrocardiogram, which evaluates the health of the heart muscles.