The Connection Between Stroke and Heart Disease

How Are Heart Disease and Strokes Connected?

Heart disease affects the heart, the organ responsible for pumping blood throughout your body. Strokes affect the brain, the organ that controls your thoughts, emotions and many other functions of the body. But you often hear the two diseases mentioned together.

Heart disease and stroke have more in common than you might think. The two diseases fall under the same category and share risk factors. Learn more about how heart disease and stroke are connected and what you can do to protect yourself from either.

Both Are Cardiovascular Conditions

Heart disease and stroke are both examples of cardiovascular diseases. Cardiovascular diseases are a group of conditions that affect the blood vessels and heart.

When a person experiences a stroke, one or more blood vessels that leads to the brain becomes blocked or bursts, restricting blood flow. When someone has a heart attack, an artery becomes blocked, restricting blood flow to the heart.

They Share Risk Factors

Heart disease and stroke are both examples of cardiovascular diseases. Cardiovascular diseases are a group of conditions that affect the blood vessels and heart.

Heart disease and stroke share many of the same risk factors, including:

● High blood pressure: High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of stroke and heart disease. When a person has high blood pressure, the interior of their blood vessels becomes damaged, weakening the vessels or leading to plaque buildup. Plaque buildup makes the vessels narrower. Around 70% of people who have a heart attack and 80% of people who have a stroke also have high blood pressure.1

● High cholesterol: High cholesterol causes plaque to build up on the interior of blood vessels, doubling a person's risk of a heart attack and increasing the risk of a stroke.1

● Smoking: Smoking is responsible for about 25% of deaths from heart disease or stroke.1 Smoking increases a person's risk for cardiovascular disease in a few ways. It lowers the levels of HDL, the "good" cholesterol and increases triglycerides in the blood. Smoking also thickens the blood, making it more likely to clot while damaging the blood vessels themselves.

● Diabetes: People with diabetes have an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. The condition also increases the chance of having other risk factors for stroke and heart disease, namely high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Elevated blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels or cause blockages that lead to strokes.

● Poor diet and limited exercise: The diet a person eats and the amount of physical activity they participate in can affect their risk of stroke or heart disease. Eating a diet full of vegetables, fruits and whole grains and with limited saturated fats, sodium and added sugar helps to reduce the risk of either condition. Getting the recommended 150 minutes of exercise each week can also help to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

● Excessive alcohol consumption: Heavy drinking can increase a person's risk of cardiovascular disease. Excessive alcohol can increase blood pressure and levels of triglycerides in the blood.2 It can also damage and age the arteries prematurely and increase the risk of diabetes, leading to an increased risk for stroke and heart disease.

Both Require Immediate Medical Attention

Heart disease and stroke often have different symptoms, but both usually require immediate medical attention. The symptoms of a stroke include facial drooping, arm weakness, slurred speech, vision and balance difficulties. You need to call 911 right away if you see the signs of a stroke in yourself or someone else.

The symptoms of a heart attack also require immediate medical attention. If you have chest pain, feel short of breath or feel faint, call 911 immediately.3

You Can Help to Prevent Heart Disease and Stroke

Many of the risk factors for heart disease and stroke are lifestyle-related. By making some changes to your habits, you can help to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Your family physician can help you work to improve your diet and add more exercise to your life. If you smoke or drink more than a moderate amount of alcohol, they can help you quit tobacco or cut back on drinking.

Your doctor can also diagnose conditions that increase your risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. Working together, you can manage those conditions and lower your risk for stroke or heart disease.

Sponsored by 


1. Heart Disease and Stroke, Centers for Disease Control,

2. Is drinking alcohol part of a healthy lifestyle?, American Heart Association,

3. Heart Attack Symptoms, Risks and Recovery, CDC,

Copyright © 2020 Parrish Healthcare