Heart attacks and stroke (also called “brain attacks”) are quite different, but both can be life threatening. Identifying the symptoms as soon as possible in you or a loved one can help ensure immediate treatment, which in turn increases the chance of survival and lessens the likelihood of lasting damage and disability. Here’s the difference between a heart attack and a stroke \u2014 and what to look for so you can get the appropriate care.\nDo you know the difference between a stroke and a heart attack? Click To Tweet\nWhat Is a Heart Attack?\nAlso known as a myocardial infarction, a heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is reduced or interrupted, typically by clogged, narrowed arteries, or a blood clot. When blood flow is blocked, the heart muscle can’t get enough oxygen and begins to die.\nHeart attack risk factors\nYou’re at higher risk for having a heart attack if you:\n\nHave a family history of cardiovascular disease\nHave high cholesterol\nHave high blood pressure\nHave diabetes\nAre overweight or obese\nAre physically inactive\nSmoke\n\nHeart attack symptoms\nClassic symptoms of a heart attack include:\n\nPressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or stops and recurs\nDiscomfort that extends to the shoulders, arms, back, abdomen, jaw, and teeth\nShortness of breath\nSweating\nLightheadedness or fainting\n\nHeart attack symptoms in women\nWomen may experience different or more vague symptoms, such as:\n\nAbdominal pain that may feel like heartburn or indigestion\nDizziness\nUnusual fatigue\nClammy skin\n\nWhat Is a Stroke?\nA stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted, either when a blood clot blocks a vessel (ischemic stroke) or when a vessel weakens or bursts (hemorrhagic stroke). Brief interruptions in blood flow, known as transient ischemic attacks (also known as ministrokes), can mimic stroke symptoms.\nWhen blood flow is interrupted, brain cells don’t receive enough oxygen and begin to die. Depending on what part of the brain is damaged, a stroke can cause problems with memory, speech, muscle control, or other functions.\nStroke symptoms\nClassic stroke symptoms include:\n\nSudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, particularly on one side of the body\nSudden confusion or difficulty speaking or understanding speech\nSudden difficulty walking, dizziness, or loss or balance or coordination\nSudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes\nSudden severe headache with no known cause\n\nStroke symptoms in women\nWomen may experience different or more vague symptoms, such as:\n\nLightheadedness, fainting, or loss of consciousness\nDifficulty breathing or shortness of breath\nGeneral weakness\nAgitation\nConfusion, unresponsiveness, or disorientation\nSudden behavioral changes\nHallucinations\nNausea or vomiting\nPain\nSeizures\nHiccups\n\nIf you think that you or a loved one are having a heart attack or stroke, call 911 immediately. To learn more about stroke rehab and stroke prevention, visit the UPMC Stroke Institute website.