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Many individuals have difficulty distinguishing between a stroke and a heart attack. A stroke and a heart attack are classified as cardiovascular emergencies because they affect the cardiovascular system. Blood flow is disrupted in both situations, causing tissue damage in the body. 

This article will discuss what happens inside the body during a stroke or heart attack. It will detail the various symptoms of a stroke and a heart attack and the different outcomes. 

Stroke facts

Are Strokes and Heart Attacks the Same Thing? 

No, a stroke and heart attack are not the same things. They both involve blood flow disruption to the brain or other organs in the body, but they have quite different causes and outcomes. 

Strokes starve the brain of blood carrying oxygen. The lack of oxygen in the brain causes cells in the brain to die. Blood clots or bleeding are the most typical causes of a stroke. Some individuals, for example, have had strokes because of uncontrolled high blood pressure, which damaged their arteries and formed clots that travel to their brains, causing a stroke. 

A heart attack occurs when the heart does not receive enough oxygen-rich blood. The most common cause of a heart attack is when a clot or plaque buildup blocks blood flow to an artery supplying blood to the heart. The heart muscle is integral to keeping the body functioning. If there is damage to the heart muscle, it can affect all the body systems. 

What Is More Dangerous a Heart Attack or A Stroke? 

A heart attack is much more severe than a stroke because it has a higher fatality rate. Heart attacks kill more than twice as many people every year. Symptoms of a heart attack differ from that of a stroke. However, stroke survivors might suffer more significant longer-term damages. 

What Is Easier to Recover from a Heart Attack or a Stroke? 

A heart attack is much easier to recover from than a stroke. Heart attacks do not usually alter one’s mental or physical abilities—people who have strokes sometimes never fully recover physically or mentally. However, people who have experienced a heart attack usually recover within a few weeks and can continue their everyday lives soon afterward.

How Long Will It Take to Recover from A Heart Attack Vs A Stroke? 

Recovery time for either a heart attack or stroke depends on the attack’s severity. Heart attack recovery time is much shorter than stroke recovery time because the effects of a heart attack are not as long-lasting or severe. A heart attack can take up to two weeks, whereas recovery from a stroke can take months, and some effects may be permanent. 

Heart attacks are much more dangerous than strokes because they can kill within minutes; however, the effects of a heart attack usually do not last as long as those of a stroke.  

What Are The 5 Main Risk Factors for A Stroke? 

The five main risk factors for a stroke are: 

1) High blood pressure 

2) Atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) 

3) Carotid artery narrowing (plaque buildup in blood vessels) 

4) Diabetes 

5) Smoking. 

What Are The 5 Main Risk Factors for A Heart Attack? 

The five main factors for a heart attack are: 

1) High blood pressure 

2) An unhealthy diet 

3) High cholesterol level   

4) Obesity 

5) Physical inactivity. 

What are the main 5 Stroke Symptoms? 

The five significant stroke symptoms are: 

1) drooping face 

2) slurred speech 

3) numbness or weakness on one side of the body  

4) blurred vision 

5) confusion, trouble understanding words, or problems with balance and coordination (ataxia). 

Major and Minor Symptoms of A stroke

What are the 5 Main Heart Attack Symptoms? 

The five significant heart attack symptoms that occur in a heart attack are: 

1) pain, discomfort, pressure, heaviness, or fullness in the chest 

2) upper back or jaw pain 

3) nausea or vomiting (after the attack subsides but may happen during an attack) 

4) cold sweats   

5) light-headedness or a sudden feeling of weakness. 

Remember: Heart attack symptoms are much more severe than stroke symptoms and may be life-threatening, whereas those that occur during a stroke can make it harder to live an everyday life afterward. Also, heart attacks happen suddenly and last for at least 15 minutes, whereas strokes do not usually have such an intense onset. 

Signs of a stroke or heart attack

How Can You Tell If You Are Having a Stroke or a Heart Attack? 

The symptoms for both cardiovascular emergencies are remarkably similar, and it can sometimes be hard to tell if you are having a stroke or a heart attack. However, the main differentiating factor is that strokes usually involve paralysis on just one side of the body, whereas heart attacks do not. Also, when people have congestive heart failure, they become dizzy and pale, whereas when people have a stroke, they can become flushed, have slurred speech, and become unresponsive. 

Severe chest pain is usually a sign that you are experiencing a heart attack instead of a stroke. 

Who Is More Likely to Have a Stroke, Men or Women? 

Before the age of 50, men are more likely to have a stroke than women because of the increased blood pressure during a man’s midlife. However, after 50, women are more likely to have a stroke than men because women live longer (older people are more likely to have strokes). 

Who Is More Likely to Have a Heart Attack, Men or Women? 

Before the age of 65, men are more likely to have heart attacks than women. However, after 65, women are more likely to have heart attacks since their arteries become more fragile with age (women in their sixties tend to be less healthy than men).

Why Is the Incidence of Heart Attacks Higher in Men Than in Women?  

Heart attacks are higher in men because they have higher risk factors than women. For example, men typically work in places where they are required to do physical labour, causing more significant strain on the heart muscle before the age of 65 when compared to women. Also, statistically, men tend to be less active than women, which causes more stress on the heart. Finally, men are usually heavier than women, increasing their risk of heart attacks. 

What Is the Leading Cause of Death in Canada? 

Heart attacks are the leading cause of death in Canada because this cardiovascular emergency is both more prevalent and more deadly than stroke. 

How Long Do Heart Attacks Last? 

Heart attacks last for approximately 20 minutes to an hour, depending on complications. How Long Do Strokes Last? The duration of a stroke event is much quicker than a heart attack. Partial paralysis can occur in a matter of seconds.  

What Happens to The Body When a Stroke Occurs?  

When a stroke occurs, blood flow is severely disrupted to the brain, causing the death of cells in that area of the brain.  

What Are The 3 Main Types of Strokes? 

The three main types of strokes are: 

What Are the Different Types of Heart Attacks? 

1. ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) – the most severe type  

2. Non-ST elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI)  

3. Unstable angina  

4. Sudden cardiac arrest 

5. Heart failure  

6. Cardiac arrest with ventricular fibrillation 

7. Asystole (flatline) 

How Do the Treatment for a Stroke and a Heart Attack Differ? 

The likely and most common treatment for a stroke is to get a clot-buster drug to the brain within 3 hours of the first symptoms. The likely and most common treatment for a heart attack is to give them aspirin, nitroglycerin, or morphine if their blood pressure is down and they are having pain in the chest.  

What Is the Most Common Type of Heart Attack? 

The most common type of heart attack is NSTEMI when they do not have any symptoms, but their blood tests come back positive when they get to the hospital.  

What Is the Most Common Type of Stroke?  

The most common type of stroke is a TIA, which affects them for about 24 hours and then resolves.  

Stroke rehab

Physiotherapy For Strokes Vs. Physiotherapy for Heart Attacks 

Different physiotherapy treatments depend on the location and severity of the heart attack or stroke.  

Physiotherapy for survivors of a heart attack involves: 

  • working on exercises to keep the heart healthy and strong,  
  • working on proper posture 
  • rebuilding their endurance with cardio exercises,  
  • learning techniques to control pain and reduce blood pressure.  

Physiotherapy for survivors of a stroke involves: 

  • learning how to manage independently again (walking, speaking),  
  • learning diverse ways to communicate because speech might be affected  
  • learning how to take care of the person and the best ways to be a caregiver. 


The difference between a stroke and a heart attack is that the location of the event and the symptoms are different.  

Their treatments are also quite different because one event might affect one side of the body governed by the brain,  while a heart attack occurs at the heart’s site. Lastly, the risk of suffering another stroke or heart attack differs depending on how well you managed your first cardiovascular event.  

Additional Resources

Healthline blog on the difference between a stroke and a heart attack. 

Medical News Today article on how to tell what you are experiencing, a stroke or heart attack. 

About the Author

Sybille Bergin PT is a certified physiotherapist and one of the owners of Bergin Motion. Bergin Motion is a family-run Barrie Physiotherapy Clinic located in Barrie’s Southend. Sybille has been providing in-home physiotherapy for over 30 years. She specializes in treating acquired brain injuries, stroke recovery, and other related ailments. Sybille is a certified NDT practitioner. Neuro Development Therapy is a specialized hands-on treatment technique that promotes mobility, balance, core strength, and gross motor skills in a playful, fun, and dynamic way. Sybille leads a team of dedicated professionals providing first-class therapy at Bergin Motion to Barrie Ontario and surrounding areas.

About Bergin Motion

Barrie Ontario Physiotherapy

Bergin Motion is a Barrie Physiotherapy Clinic. Bergin Motion offers physiotherapy in Barrie to clients with a wide range of conditions.

The clinic in Barrie specializes in orthopedic, neurological, and pelvic health disciplines.

Bergin Motion treats clients at their clinic and in the comfort of their home if they cannot travel to the clinic.

Located in the south end of Barrie, Ontario, the physio clinic boasts 9000 sq. ft., with seven treatment rooms and a fully equipped gym.