In order to quickly get the right kind of help, it’s a good idea to know the basic signs and symptoms of both a stroke and a heart attack. Symptoms may appear suddenly or they may also build slowly, and both events have some symptoms in common, like shortness of breath, confusion, and tightness in the chest. So how do you tell if it’s a stroke or a heart attack?
- Tingling or numbness on one side of the body
- Facial drooping, numbness on one side of the face, or a crooked smile
- Difficulty speaking or understanding what others are saying
- Sudden and severe headache
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Difficulty with vision in one or both eyes
Heart attack symptoms
- Pain or pressure in the chest, back, jaw, neck, or one or both arms
- Pain in the upper abdomen
- Cold sweat
A blood clot or blockage in the heart or coronary arteries is the cause of a heart attack, while a blood clot or burst vessel in the brain is the cause of a stroke, or brain attack. People seem more inclined to seek medical help when they suspect a heart attack, and they tend to wait for symptoms of a stroke to go away, however time is of the essence in either case. The longer a clot remains, or a burst vessel continues to bleed, the more oxygen gets cut off, and this is what causes irreparable damage to the heart or brain.
While both men and women do commonly suffer chest pain or discomfort, women tend to be more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain and may not have chest pain.
What to do if any of these warning signs are present
If any of these symptoms are present, even if they seem to go away, it’s important to call 9-1-1 as quickly as possible. Don’t delay. The more time that passes, the more damage may be happening. For a stroke, take note of the time when symptoms first began to manifest, and be sure to let emergency responders know as this will help them determine which treatment to begin.
Chest pain and tightness may be due to acid reflux or some other non-fatal condition, but it is best to be safe and call for help immediately. Don’t try to drive yourself or have someone drive you to the hospital. Emergency responders can begin treatment immediately, saving precious time.
Risk factors you can control
Age, gender, heredity, race, and previous history of heart attack or stroke are risk factors that can’t be controlled. However there are a number of lifestyle changes you can make that can help you mitigate the risk of suffering either a heart attack or stroke.
- Quit smoking
- Keep your blood pressure in the normal range
- Keep your blood cholesterol levels normal
- Engage in regular physical activity like walking
- Keep your weight in the normal range for height and age
- Control your blood sugar levels if you’re diabetic
As always, it is best to consult with your doctor about your health history and any risk factors you may have. Your doctor will be able to recommend what’s best in your specific circumstances.
American Heart Association, Warning Signs of Heart Attack, Stroke & Cardiac Arrest and Symptoms of a Heart Attack and Stroke