Heart Disease

How Heart Disease and Stroke Are Related

We often hear heart disease and stroke mentioned in the same sentence.  However, it’s not always clear how these two conditions are related.  It may help to understand exactly what a stroke is to understand the relationship.

 A stroke is often referred to as a brain attack because it is just as severe and life threatening as a heart attack. This is most often caused by blockage of a blood vessel in the brain that causes blood flow to a specific area to stop.

This is called an ischemic stroke. The other type of stroke is called a hemorrhagic stroke.  This occurs when a blood vessel bursts in the brain.  When this happens the vessels bleed into the brain.

Heart disease and stroke are related because they’re both caused by the deterioration of the blood vessels.  Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, can lead to both conditions.

When the blood vessels become lined with fat and cholesterol they develop a hard substance called plaque.  This plaque can cause the vessels to become hard and narrowed.  They can easily become blocked as a result of this process.

Hardened blood vessels are also less elastic.  That means changes in pressure that occur quickly are more likely to break the vessel. Both heart attack and stroke can result in death.

In addition, a non-fatal stroke can cause serious brain damage that results in paralysis, loss of speech, loss of memory and problems with thinking.   These are major life-changing problems.  Some can be helped through rehabilitation, while other conditions become permanent.

The good news is that both heart disease and stroke are preventable to a large degree.  Healthy habits such as a good diet, physical activity, and stress-management can help to prevent problems with blood vessels.

Seeing your doctor regularly for checkups and screenings can also help catch problems while they are manageable.  You may be able to prevent a stroke or heart attack by taking medication or by a surgical procedure.

Both stroke and heart disease are very serious conditions.  It’s important that you don’t take the threat of them lightly.  Heart attacks are the number one killer in the United States and strokes follow closely at number three.

But they’re both manifestations of the same problem with the blood vessels.  If you work hard to keep your blood vessels in good condition, you can prevent both heart disease and stroke.  Something as simple as taking a walk every day can help to save your life.



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