How Can You Tell If You Are Having A Stroke Vs. Heart Attack?

The symptoms of a stroke and heart attack can occur very suddenly and can sometimes be fairly similar. However, being able to distinguish the difference between the main symptoms of a stroke and a heart attack can be crucial in the event of a medical emergency.

According to Medical News Today, a heart attack, otherwise known as myocardial infarction, occurs when the body reduces or blocks blood flow to a coronary artery, which in turn can prevent the flow of blood to the heart. A stroke, on the other hand, is when blood supply to the brain is reduced significantly and stops the brain tissue from receiving oxygen and other essential nutrients.

Per Healthline, the symptoms of a stroke and heart attack can vary depending on a person's age, gender, overall health, and severity of the episode. Although some symptoms of a stroke and heart attack are similar — for instance, sudden weakness in the body — the main symptoms for each condition are actually quite different.

What are the main symptoms of a stroke and a heart attack?

According to Medical News Today, some of the most common symptoms of a heart attack include chest pain, upper body discomfort, pain that radiates down the left arm, cold sweats, tiredness, nausea, shortness of breath, and dizziness. 

In contrast, the most common symptoms of a stroke include sudden numbness or weakness in the face and other areas of the body, including the arm and leg; sudden difficulty walking; loss of balance or coordination; confusion; difficulty speaking or understanding speech; difficulty seeing in one or both eyes; a sudden severe headache; vomiting; and altered consciousness. The American Stroke Association suggest people remember the acronym FAST to help recognize the main symptoms of a stroke: Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, and Time to call 911.

Per Healthline, both a heart attack and stroke can be prevented by making sure your cholesterol and blood pressure levels are within a healthy range, by not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing alcohol intake, keeping blood sugar under control, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet that is low in saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium.

Although you can make lifestyle changes to help reduce the risk of a heart attack and stroke, some risk factors, including age and family health history, unfortunately cannot be controlled.