dexa scan for body weight composition and visceral fat scans in Okanagan valley

The Difference Between Stroke and Heart Attack

Heart attacks and strokes share the same underlying causes and most of the same risk factors.

Strokes and heart attacks are severe cardiovascular diseases (CVD) with symptoms that can start suddenly without the patient realizing it. A leading cause of death in Canada and globally, their long-term health effects may be life-changing. They can potentially leave the patient in a state of helplessness and needing constant care.

One main similarity between strokes and heart attacks is that they both directly result from inadequate blood flow. A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked. On the other hand, a heart attack results from insufficient blood supply to the heart. The treatment modalities for both conditions also differ. However, receiving immediate medical assistance can be the difference between recovery, survival, or severe damage for both conditions.

What is a stroke?

A stroke is a sudden loss of brain function caused by a brain blood vessel blockage (ischemic stroke) or rupture (hemorrhagic stroke). In either case, parts of the brain become damaged or die. The symptoms or subsequent complications of a stroke can persist and impact one’s quality of life for the long haul.

What are the symptoms of a stroke?

Signs and symptoms of a stroke can vary from person to person, but someone who’s having a stroke may experience:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination.
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

What is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack (also called a myocardial infarction), occurs when the blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked by a blood clot. If this clot cuts off the blood flow completely, the part of the heart muscle supplied by that artery begins to die. The more time that passes without treatment to restore blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart muscle

What are the symptoms of heart attack?

The major symptoms of a heart attack are

  • Chest pain or discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
  • Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint. One may also break out into a cold sweat.
  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back.
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders.
  • Shortness of breath. This often comes along with chest discomfort, but shortness of breath also can happen before chest discomfort.

Other symptoms of a heart attack could include unusual or unexplained tiredness and nausea or vomiting. Women are more likely to have these other symptoms.

What causes heart attacks and strokes?

Heart attacks and most strokes are both caused by something called atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty plaque within certain blood vessels called arteries. Plaque is a thick, gritty material made of cholesterol, fats, calcium, and blood cells. It builds up slowly and causes arteries in the body to narrow and stiffen.

Sometimes, a piece of plaque can break off and travel downstream where it can completely block off blood supply to an organ or muscle. If the blockage happens to an artery supplying blood to the heart muscle (a coronary artery), that’s a heart attack. If the blockage happens in the neck or brain, that can cause a stroke.

How to prevent a stroke or heart attack

Anything you can do to address the modifiable risk factors for atherosclerosis can help to prevent heart attacks or strokes from happening.

In practice, that means:

  • Quitting smoking, which can reduce your risk by as much as 50%
  • Getting your blood pressure checked, and treated (if high)
  • Knowing your cholesterol levels, and taking steps to improve these
  • Getting checked for prediabetes or diabetes, and taking steps to reverse it
  • If you’ve already had a heart attack or stroke, keeping up with your health checks and taking stroke and heart attack prevention medication can significantly reduce your risk of having another event.

DEXA scan for cardiovascular screening

People affected by CVDs may go undiagnosed until the occurrence of a serious heart failure event such as stroke, heart attack, and myocardial infarction.

DEXA scan is an imaging test that measures your bone health, body fat, and muscle mass.
A DXA scan can also be useful as part of a cardiovascular risk assessment to prevent stroke and heart attack. A Heart & Stroke Risk Assessment from Dexacan offers an analysis of the body composition and bone density which may help to assess certain cardiovascular risk factors, such as the presence of abdominal aortic calcification, which has been found to be a marker of increased risk of cardiovascular events.

Call 778-760-2161 or book an appointment with Dexacan today to learn more about how a cardiovascular DEXA screening can help predict and prevent heart disease or a stroke even without symptoms.