Millions of people have heart disease or stroke, both of which are serious health concerns. Not only can a stroke kill you, but it can also cause various complications that affect a person’s movements, speech, thinking, and overall quality of life.

Heart disease and stroke are preventable and manageable problems. That’s exactly what this article aims to do – show you how to prevent stroke and heart disease, how to recognize signs and symptoms, and teach you more about their causes. Read on to learn more.

What is cardiovascular (heart) disease?

Cardiovascular disease is a term that refers to diseases affecting the heart and blood vessels. Heart disease is usually connected to the buildup of plaque (fatty deposits) inside the arteries (atherosclerosis) and a higher risk of blood clots. Moreover, cardiovascular disease is linked to damage to arteries in organs such as the heart, brain, eyes, and kidneys.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cardiovascular diseases take around 17.9 million lives[1] worldwide. In the United States, one person dies every 33 seconds due to cardiovascular disease, CDC reports[2]. The same report showed that in 2021, around 695,000 people in the U.S. died from heart disease. This accounts for one in five deaths.

Causes of heart disease and stroke

First, it is important to understand that heart disease and stroke are not the same things and shouldn’t be used as synonyms. While heart disease refers to conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels, stroke is a sudden interruption of blood flow to the brain.

Before digging into the causes, it’s important to distinguish heart attack vs. stroke differences too. Heart attack results from blockage of blood flow to the heart muscle thus causing chest pain and heart damage. Stroke is, as mentioned above, an abrupt interruption of blood flow to the brain thus causing symptoms like speech difficulties and paralysis. The similarity between them is that both stroke and heart attack are medical emergencies.

The main cause of heart disease and stroke is the inflexibility of blood vessels and problems in blood flow or circulation. Healthy blood vessels are flexible and allow blood to flow freely and regularly. Various factors including aging and unhealthy lifestyle contribute to the thickening and stiffening of blood vessels, which restricts blood flow and impairs the health and function of the heart and cardiovascular system.

Moreover, the biggest cause of death due to heart disease and stroke is the progressive blocking of blood vessels. However, this problem is both manageable and preventable.

Signs and symptoms of heart disease and stroke

Signs and symptoms of heart disease depend on the underlying cause. People may experience symptoms[3] such as:

  • Chest pain, tightness, pressure, or discomfort
  • Fluttering in chest
  • Pain in neck, jaw, throat, back, or upper abdominal area
  • Shortness of breath
  • Legs or arms feeling weak, cold, or painful
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • Tachycardia (racing heartbeat)
  • Bradycardia (slow heartbeat)

A good way to understand heart attack vs. stroke is to learn more about their signs and symptoms.

Heart attack warning signs[4] are:

  • Pain or discomfort in the chest
  • Lightheadedness, nausea, and/or vomiting
  • Pain in jaw, neck, or back
  • Discomfort or pain in the arm or shoulder
  • Shortness of breath

Warning signs of stroke[5] are:

  • Severe headache with unknown cause
  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm/leg, particularly one side of the body
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding speech
  • Sudden difficulty walking, loss of balance, dizziness, and impaired coordination

So, can a stroke kill you? Yes, a stroke can be fatal. Nonfatal strokes can cause paralysis or make a person unable to communicate.

Risk factors of heart disease and stroke

Everyone can develop heart disease and stroke, but some people are at a higher risk than others. Common risk factors[6] for stroke and heart disease include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Sedentary lifestyle or physical inactivity
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Family history of cardiovascular diseases and stroke
  • Older age
  • History of transient ischemic attacks
  • Anxiety, depression, or high levels of stress
  • Exposure to air pollution
  • Medical conditions such as sleep apnea and kidney disease
  • Viral infections or conditions associated with inflammation

Stroke has very similar risk factors as heart attack. If you have questions about their mechanisms of action, it’s useful to consult a healthcare provider who will explain what distinguishes a stroke from a heart attack.

What are different types of cardiovascular disease?

Different types of heart disease[7] are listed below:

  • Coronary heart disease: the arteries can’t deliver enough oxygen-rich blood to the heart. It is also known as ischemic heart disease or coronary artery disease.
  • Peripheral vascular disease: decreased blood flow to body parts other than the heart or brain. The main cause of peripheral vascular disease is atherosclerosis.
  • Aortic disease: occurs when walls of the aorta become weak or split and bulge. They may burst or block up.
  • Stroke: results from a blood clot or rupturing of a blood vessel and bleeding.

Other types[8] of cardiovascular disease include heart failure, congenital heart disease, pericardial disease, arrhythmias, cerebrovascular disease, and deep vein thrombosis.

Diagnosis of heart disease and stroke

A person with symptoms of heart disease or stroke, mentioned above, should see the doctor immediately. The healthcare provider will explain what distinguishes a stroke from a heart attack and order necessary tests to diagnose the problem.

When it comes to heart attack vs. stroke, the diagnostic process may involve CT or MRI of the heart or brain. Depending on the symptoms, patients may need blood tests, electrocardiogram (ECG), holter monitoring, echocardiogram, stress test, and cardiac catheterization.

The main objective of these tests is to rule out other causes of the symptoms and determine how stroke or heart disease is affecting the cardiovascular system or nervous system. They also provide more information about blood vessels and their conditions as well as the functioning of the heart or brain.

The doctor opts for the most suitable diagnostic tests for each patient.

Stroke symptoms

Prevention of heart disease and stroke

Stroke and heart disease put our health and well-being in danger. As seen above, the answer to the “can a stroke kill you” question is affirmative. Fortunately, it’s possible to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and events. Below, you can take a look at simple strategies that mean a lot in the prevention of stroke and heart disease.

1. Stop smoking

Smoking increases levels of triglycerides and lowers HDL (good) cholesterol. This unhealthy habit makes blood sticky and more likely to clot. Despite several heart attack vs. stroke differences, one thing they have in common is that cessation of smoking can reduce the risk[9] of these cardiovascular events. Smoking narrows blood vessels and impairs blood circulation. Quitting smoking can thereby exhibit a positive effect on blood circulation and cardiovascular health.

2. Manage your diabetes

Unmanaged diabetes causes various complications including stroke and heart disease. High blood sugar levels damage blood vessels and make them more likely to develop fatty deposits. This makes a person more susceptible to stroke and heart disease. Evidence confirms that diabetes is a modifiable risk for stroke[10]. Adhere to doctor-recommended treatment for diabetes and modify your lifestyle accordingly. Since unmanaged diabetes can contribute to hypertension, natural products like Vazopril Blood Pressure Support can help you out.

3. Manage stress

Stress increases the risk of stroke and heart disease because high levels of cortisol (stress hormone) increase blood cholesterol, blood glucose, triglycerides, and blood pressure. Studies show[11] that emotional stress contributes to stroke through modulation of sympathomimetic activity, blood pressure reactivity, and by affecting heart rhythm. You can manage stress by engaging in relaxing activities such as yoga, meditation, exercise, going for a walk, reading or writing, and deep breathing. Options are endless. Combine stress management technique that works for you with Vazopril Blood Pressure Support to normalize blood pressure in order to reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease.

4. Manage your weight

Excess weight contributes to the buildup of plaque in arteries and thereby negatively affects blood pressure. This can contribute to heart attack and stroke. Moreover, obesity is associated with risk factors for stroke and heart disease such as high cholesterol, diabetes, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, and chronic inflammation[12]. Weight loss can protect you against cardiovascular diseases and events. You can achieve it with a healthy diet and regular exercise.

5. Exercise regularly

A sedentary lifestyle contributes to stroke and heart disease because it impairs blood flow and contributes to the accumulation of fatty deposits in arteries. Also, lack of physical activity is connected to weight gain, high blood pressure, and risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. Try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. It will help you manage hypertension like Vazopril Blood Pressure Support and it may protect you against stroke and heart disease.

6. Limit alcohol consumption

Not only can a stroke kill you, but alcohol can too. Excessive, long-term alcohol intake causes the heart to stretch and enlarge. The heart becomes weaker and doesn’t pump blood as well as it should. Plus, alcohol can increase blood pressure[13], which also contributes to stroke and heart disease. Strive to limit or avoid drinking alcohol entirely.

7. Take proper sleep

Sleep deprivation contributes to stress and hypertension, both of which contribute to stroke and heart disease. Also, lack of sleep makes it easier for plaque to build up in arteries. Higher levels of cortisol may cause inflammation, which contributes to cardiovascular diseases or events. You should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep every night.

FAQ’s

How does heart disease cause stroke?

Heart disease causes stroke through several mechanisms such as the buildup of plaque[14] in the arteries, known as atherosclerosis. The accumulation of plaque narrows blood vessels and impairs blood flow to the brain, which can increase the risk of ischemic stroke. Moreover, heart conditions such as atrial fibrillation may cause the formation of blood clots in the heart. These blood clots could travel to the brain and cause embolic stroke. Since similar factors are involved in heart attack and stroke, it’s useful to consult a doctor, especially if you’re in a high-risk group. They will explain what distinguishes a stroke from a heart attack.

What can I do to reduce my risk for heart disease?

You can reduce your risk of heart disease through lifestyle modifications. For example, you can modify your diet to eat more heart-healthy foods like olive oil and vegetables, and whole grains, and exclude or limit intake of trans fats, sugary foods, and foods with high sodium content. You may also want to exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and manage stress.

Other useful things to do are quitting smoking and drinking alcohol, management of underlying health problems such as high cholesterol, and going to checkups at the doctor’s office regularly. You may also want to consider adding natural products like Vazopril Blood Pressure Support to your lifestyle.

Can heart problems cause stroke symptoms?

Heart problems can cause stroke symptoms. For instance, conditions such as atrial fibrillation are associated with blood clots which can travel and reach the brain thereby causing symptoms of stroke. Heart problems can decrease blood flow to the brain[15] and cause symptoms such as weakness, speech difficulties, and paralysis, which also occur in stroke. Since these problems are similar, this article aimed to explain what distinguishes a stroke from a heart attack.

Can a weak heart lead to a stroke?

Yes, a weak heart can lead to a stroke because a failing heart fails to provide enough blood and oxygen to the body. In other words, the heart doesn’t pump blood effectively. As a result, blood clots may form and travel to the brain thus causing stroke. When your heart doesn’t pump regularly, blood doesn’t flow evenly[16], which can lead to stroke symptoms. That’s why it’s important to make necessary lifestyle adjustments to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Conclusion

This article focused on heart disease and stroke to show you how to protect yourself and reduce the risk of these serious health problems. A healthy lifestyle is crucial because it can help normalize blood pressure, cholesterol, and other modifiable risk factors associated with these medical conditions.