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Stroke vs. Heart Attack: How To Spot the Difference

Medically reviewed by Janie-Vi Villamor Ismael-Gorospe, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated May 04, 2022

Stroke vs. Heart Attack: How To Spot the Difference

Stroke and heart attack are two of the most common conditions with high incidence rates not only in the Philippines but around the world. However, some people find the prevalence of both cases to be coinciding and confusing to recognize and distinguish the different signs of stroke or heart attack. 

This article will be helpful to easily spot the difference between the signs of stroke or heart attack. 

Stroke, Defined

A stroke usually takes place when a blood vessel that is responsible for supplying oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked or ruptured. When this happens, the region where the brain is supplied by that blood vessel is deprived of the blood and oxygen it requires. This results in the death of brain cells. 

Some people recognize a stroke to be a brain attack. 

signs of stroke or heart attack

Signs of Stroke

The common signs of stroke are: 

  • Numbness of the face, arms, or legs
  • Sudden dizziness or confusion
  • Loss of balance and coordination (walking may seem hard)
  • Inability to move the facial muscles (or smile)
  • Sudden and severe headache 
  • Unusual blurriness of vision (in one or both eyes)
  • Speech difficulties and other communication problems
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Change in wakefulness or loss of consciousness
  • A quick and helpful acrostic may also come in handy to guide you to remember the signs of stroke. 

    • F = Face Drooping (Questions you may ask: Is one side of a person’s face drooping or numb? When you ask the person to smile, is the smile asymmetrical?)
    • A = Arm Weakness (Questions you may ask: Is one of the arms feeling numb or weak? When instructed to raise both arms, is one of the arms heavier than the other?)
    • S = Speech Difficulty (Question you may ask: Is there slurring of speech?)
    • T = Time to call emergency and medical assistance. If you suspect someone to be experiencing stroke and hitting all these three signs of stroke, immediately get the phone and dial the hospital’s hotline.

    What Is a Heart Attack?

    Heart attack, or myocardial infarction (M.I.), is caused by a problem in the heart’s blood supply. It is characterized by the death of heart muscle tissue as a result of the lack of blood supply.

    Heart attacks are nearly commonly the outcome of progressive coronary artery disease (CAD). Atherosclerosis is a disorder in which the arteries that feed blood to the heart become clogged with fatty deposits called plaque, which constricts and obstructs the arteries.

    Signs of a Heart Attack 

    Some heart attacks happen without warning, but the majority of them begin with minor pain or discomfort.

    Make sure to be mindful of the following, as they may indicate that you are already showing signs of a heart attack:

    • Chest discomfort and pain in the chest
    • Discomfort in other parts of the upper body (arms, shoulders, neck, jaw, stomach, or even the back area)
    • Shortness of breath
    • Cold sweat, dizziness, feeling light-headed.
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Lightheadedness 
    • Cold sweats

    In patients with diabetes, however, there is evidence that heart attacks may be painless, or experienced atypically due to autonomic neuropathy affecting the sensory innervation of the heart.

    Heart diseases and stroke are considered to be part of the cardiovascular disease category. Ischemic heart diseases (heart attacks) and cerebrovascular diseases (stroke) are known to be leading causes of death in the Philippines both in 2019 and 2020.  

    They are caused by a shortage of blood supply to vital body parts: a blockage in blood flow to the brain causes a stroke, while an obstruction in blood flow to the heart causes a heart attack.

    Reduce the Risk of Showing Signs of Stroke or Heart Attack 

    Regardless of the differences between the signs of stroke and heart attack, both cases require immediate action as they can occur suddenly and intensely that may eventually lead to death. 

    Some helpful ways to reduce the risks are listed below:

  • Avoid smoking 
  • Exercise regularly 
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle 
  • Manage and control high blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol with prescribed medications 
  • Practice healthy eating and maintain a healthy weight
  • Manage stress
  • Key Takeaways

    Many often confuse the signs of stroke or heart attack with each other. But when it comes to signs of stroke or heart attack, it is wise to understand what each does to the body in order to better communicate these symptoms to your doctor.
    Preventing the onset of these medical problems can help protect you and decrease the high mortality rate caused by these two debilitating conditions. 

    Learn more about Stroke here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Janie-Vi Villamor Ismael-Gorospe, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated May 04, 2022

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