Do You Know the Difference?


One reader noticed the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association share a website and asked me why. I will do my best to explain the similarities and differences between heart attacks and a strokes, but cardiologists, neurologists, and probably any medical professional could explain the shared website.

Heart Attack

A heart attack occurs when the heart is starved of oxygen-rich blood. The lack of oxygen damages the heart. Some heart attacks are caused by heart disease. A less common cause of a heart attack is where one or more of the coronary arteries tear. Although there are some differences, heart attack is also known as myocardial infarction, coronary thrombosis, or acute coronary syndrome.

Signs of Heart Attack

Some signs of heart attack include:

  • Chest pain
  • Severe pain the arms, neck, jaw, back, or stomach
  • Sweating
  • Feeling light-headed
  • Becoming short of breath
  • Feeling nauseous or vomiting


A stroke is a brain attack that happens when blood supply to the brain is interrupted. Blood carries oxygen to the brain. Brain cells die without oxygen. There are two different types of stroke: 1) an ischemic stroke is the most common, and is caused by a blockage which cuts off blood supply to the brain; 2) a hemorrhagic stroke is caused by bleeding in or around the brain.

Signs of Stroke

  • Face drooping
  • Arm weakness
  • Speech difficulty
  • Sudden numbness or weakness on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or understanding speech
  • Sudden difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance/coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause



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