Heart Attack, Stroke, and Aneurysm

Heart attack and stroke are two of the lead­ing causes of death in the U.S. Both con­di­tions arise from the same causes: a seden­tary lifestyle, poor dietary choices, and other fac­tors like smok­ing and stress. While they may be rooted in the same con­di­tions, heart attack and stroke very dif­fer­ent events.

Heart Attack

A heart attack occurs when blood is cut off from the heart mus­cle, caus­ing part of the mus­cle to die from lack of oxy­gen. Heart attacks can be caused by clots or other block­age of the arter­ies, or other inter­rup­tions in blood flow. Symp­toms include chest pain, dizzi­ness, breath­less­ness, dis­com­fort in the shoul­ders, arms, or jaw, cold sweats, and nausea.


Stroke is very sim­i­lar to heart attack, in that it involves the restric­tion of blood flow and oxy­gen sup­ply. Strokes, how­ever, occur when blood flow to the brain is inter­rupted, caus­ing brain cells to die. Symp­toms can include loss of feel­ing, weak­ness, or numb­ness in arms and legs, dif­fi­culty mov­ing, trou­ble main­tain­ing bal­ance, or sud­den con­fu­sion and dif­fi­culty under­stand­ing or speak­ing. Strokes usu­ally don’t cause pain.


Aneurysms are an impor­tant con­trib­u­tor to both strokes and heart attacks. Aneurysms occur when arte­r­ial walls are weak­ened. Over time, the arte­r­ial wall can bulge out like a bal­loon and blood can col­lect in the area. Aneurysms can burst, caus­ing blood to spray. Depend­ing on where the break­age occurs, it can lead to heart attack or stroke.

Aneurysms typ­i­cally develop over time and can be caused by high blood pres­sure, ath­er­o­scle­ro­sis (build up of fatty debris in the blood ves­sels), and smoking.


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