Heart Attack or Stroke?

It can happen to you, or right in front of you. What is the difference?  What do you do?…

By David A. Steenblock, MS, DO 


A heart attack occurs from blockage of the blood vessels that supply oxygen to the heart. This usually causes chest pain on one’s left side, and the left arm or neck. The pain is constant and may go from a dull ache to a more sharp pain in the left chest with exertion or stress. Nausea may be present as well.

If you are having CHEST PAIN , NAUSEA and/or SWEATING call 911 and go to the nearest emergency room for medical care!

A stroke happens when blood flow to the brain is impeded or blocked.

Sometimes these symptoms will go away after a few minutes or hours. When this happens it is likely you are having a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) which means that a blocked blood vessel to your brain has opened up and the blood flow has been at least partially restored.

For years doctors have thought that this type of event did not cause damage to the brain though recent studies have demonstrated that it not only does, but can result in long term problems like memory loss. If these symptoms return in a few hours, days or even weeks, the original symptoms usually stick around and may signal a full blown stroke.

If you should have this type of seemingly temporary problem, then insist that your doctors do a complete brain blood vessel evaluation and brain MRI so the exact cause of the symptoms can be determined and either repaired or treated to prevent the progression of the TIA into a full blown stroke.

Call 911 if….

If you or someone your observe exhibits any of the signs of stroke. Do not delay because timely treatment is critical to survival and recovery. Be safe rather than sorry! CALL NOW!

Summon an ambulance…

If the symptoms pass quickly this may indicate a brief blockage of blood flow to the brain (called a transient ischemic attack or TIA) that is often a forerunner of stroke. Do not ignore this warning sign.

In situations in which a stroke is due to a blood clot, an enzyme treatment (TPA) must be initiated within the first 3-6 hours of the onset of symptoms. If your pulse is irregular and or you have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation or other forms of irregular heartbeat, your chances of having a blood clot as the cause of a stroke is high.

If you have HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE and especially if you have not been taking your blood pressure pills and TIA or stroke symptoms develop, your chances of having a “BLEEDING” type of stroke is high and the enzyme drug TPA cannot be used.

Bleeding into the brain is more likely to cause serious problems and even death than the blood clot type, especially if one’s blood pressure is high and remains so. Most preventable strokes are due to people not taking prescribed blood pressure lowering drugs or lifestyle changes or failing to measure their blood pressure on a regular basis and missing unusual changes.


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