Hopefully, you will never experience a stroke or a heart attack, but it is important to know the differences between these two potentially fatal medical emergencies. The most important similarity may be that if you or someone you know is showing the symptoms of a stroke or a heart attack, time is crucial. Getting immediate medical help increases the chance of survival and recovery.
Heart Attacks Explained
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S. Heart disease can lead to a heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction.
The term “heart attack” refers to damage of the heart muscle, usually caused by a lack of blood flow. If a blood clot forms in one of the arteries that supply blood to the heart, it can block blood flow and deprive the heart of the nutrients it needs to function.
As the heart weakens from lack of nourishment, chest pain and other symptoms may occur. Warning signs of a heart attack include:
- A sense of impending doom
- Pain radiating down the left arm
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling lightheaded
- Pain or numbness in the upper body
- Stomach pain
- Changes in heartbeat
- A bluish tint to the hands, feet, or lips
- Pain in the jaw or between the shoulder blades
Men and women tend to experience a different set of symptoms; however, warning signs can be different for every person. In some cases, there is no warning at all. This is referred to as a “silent heart attack.”
Like heart attacks, strokes are usually caused by a blood clot that blocks blood flow in the arteries. In this case, the blockage affects the brain. Deprived of nourishment, a section of the brain dies, resulting in a stroke.
There are three types of strokes. Ischemic stroke is caused by a blood clot, and it is the most common type. Bleeding in the brain, usually from injury or aneurysm, may cause a hemorrhagic stroke. A transient ischemic attack is caused when an artery that feeds the brain is restricted but not blocked.
Warning signs of stroke are typically less painful and more subtle than warning signs of a heart attack. They may include:
- Speech difficulties
- Arm or leg weakness
- Vision loss
- Facial drooping
- Tingling or numbness in extremities
- Sudden incontinence
The chances of surviving and recovering from a stroke depend on what part and how much of the brain was affected. Immediate medical help increases the chance for recovery.
Stroke and heart attack are both age-related health problems. Longer life spans mean the conditions have become more common. Unfortunately, many patients still end up with some type of long-term disability.
The Future of Regenerative Medicine
There is hope that regenerative medicine, also known as stem cell therapy, may offer an option to help repair the damage caused by a stroke or heart attack. As medicine continues to advance, the damages of these serious conditions may become less permanent. Patients are exploring the beneficial opportunities that stem cells hold. If you would like to learn more contact a care coordinator today!