So today starts a marathon 6 weeks of studying for my board recertification.
Which means very little blogging (Boo Hoo!) and no writing (Double Boo Hoo!). So I'm going to be posting less often and I apologize ahead of time about not checking your blogs regularly. I'll miss it!
In honor of my studyfest, in which I will drink massive quantities of tea and bang my head against nearby walls, I thought it would be fitting to hit a very basic topic in medicine (what we docs call "Bread and Butter" topics): Strokes vs Heart Attacks.
This question is inspired by some emails from Anne (Piedmont Writer).
In concept, both heart attacks and strokes are about one single problem—not getting vital oxygen to the point where tissue dies.
In heart attacks (also called myocardial infarction), it's caused by a sudden blockage in one of the arteries that supplies blood to the heart muscle itself. There can be small and large heart attacks, depending on the size of the blockage, which artery it hits, and how long the blockage lasts.
Symptoms include (but can vary widely): crushing chest pain, chest pressure, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, left arm and jaw pain. Fatal or dangerous arrhythmias can occur to make someone pass out.
In stroke (also called cerebrovascular accident, or CVA), two types can occur: hemorrhagic or ischemic. Hemorrhagic means a blood vessel bursts. As a result, some brain tissue can lose it's blood supply since it's spilling out, and the blood itself is irritating and can take up space. This can also be small, or large and devastating.
In ischemic strokes, the lack of oxygenation occurs from many causes: a blood vessel is occluded because either a clot flew up into one of the vessels of the brain from lower in the body (the neck vessels, for instance) or can happen spontaneously within the native vessels of the brain. Or, if there isn't enough blood to perfuse the brain (like in a very prolonged low blood pressure situation), or if there is a blood clot in the drainage vessels of the brain (venous thrombosis).
As for symptoms of stroke? There are a bunch. But in essence, they revolve around problems with the nervous system. So weakness, numbness, difficulty talking, thinking correctly, problems walking...these are the tip of the iceberg for stroke symptoms, and of course it depends on how big the stroke is and what part of the brain it hits.
So technical! Let's take a collective breath.
Wiggle your fingers and say "Ahhh!" Good.
Any chest pain? No? Excellent!
You're healthy! That'll be $500. Just kidding.
Now get back to work!
Please keep in mind this post is for writing purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice! (See sidebar disclaimer)
If you've got a fictional medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at
All I ask in return is that you become a follower of my blog and post a link on your blog when I post. Easy peasy.
Also, don't forget to check out Mental Health Mondays at Laura's Blog!