Heart attack and stroke are two of the leading causes of death in the U.S. Both conditions arise from the same causes: a sedentary lifestyle, poor dietary choices, and other factors like smoking and stress. While they may be rooted in the same conditions, heart attack and stroke very different events.
A heart attack occurs when blood is cut off from the heart muscle, causing part of the muscle to die from lack of oxygen. Heart attacks can be caused by clots or other blockage of the arteries, or other interruptions in blood flow. Symptoms include chest pain, dizziness, breathlessness, discomfort in the shoulders, arms, or jaw, cold sweats, and nausea.
Stroke is very similar to heart attack, in that it involves the restriction of blood flow and oxygen supply. Strokes, however, occur when blood flow to the brain is interrupted, causing brain cells to die. Symptoms can include loss of feeling, weakness, or numbness in arms and legs, difficulty moving, trouble maintaining balance, or sudden confusion and difficulty understanding or speaking. Strokes usually don’t cause pain.
Aneurysms are an important contributor to both strokes and heart attacks. Aneurysms occur when arterial walls are weakened. Over time, the arterial wall can bulge out like a balloon and blood can collect in the area. Aneurysms can burst, causing blood to spray. Depending on where the breakage occurs, it can lead to heart attack or stroke.
Aneurysms typically develop over time and can be caused by high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (build up of fatty debris in the blood vessels), and smoking.