What is the difference between a heart attack and a stroke?

Blood vessels carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body. This blood carries oxygen and nutrients that the body needs to live. Both heart attacks and strokes involve the blockage of a blood vessel. The difference is where the blood vessel is located and what happens when the blood vessel is blocked.

In a heart attack, a blood vessel that supplies blood to the heart gets blocked. The heart is a muscle that is always working. It needs this blood to supply it with oxygen or else it can’t pump anymore. If one of these heart vessels gets blocked, the heart is starved of oxygen. Because the heart cannot rest, the muscle continues to pump without the oxygen it needs and eventually gets damaged or even dies. The result is called a heart attack or myocardial infarction. This damage to the heart muscle is usually permanent and can seriously affect the heart to the point that a person will die.

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel to the brain becomes blocked. The brain is not a muscle like the heart, but it too needs blood to supply nerves with oxygen. If one of these vessels gets blocked, nerve cells in the brain die. Suffering a stroke in different parts of the brain result in different types of damage. People can become paralyzed, have difficulty speaking, have difficulty breathing or seeing, all depending where the stroke occurs. This damage is permanent because nerve cells cannot regenerate themselves. Sometimes we can train a person to use a different part of the brain to regain some of the affected function, but this is not always possible.

There are a number of things that you can do that will lower your risk of suffering from a heart attack or stroke. Ask your Rxellence Pharmacist for more information on how you can lower your level of risk.