Both stroke and heart attack symptoms occur suddenly. Though the two events have a few possible symptoms in common, their other symptoms differ.

A common symptom of a stroke is a sudden and powerful headache. A stroke is sometimes referred to as a “brain attack.” A heart attack, on the other hand, often occurs with chest pain.

Recognizing the different symptoms of a stroke and heart attack can make a big difference in getting the right kind of help.

If you think you or someone else is having a heart attack or stroke, call 911 or your local emergency services. Quick emergency care can be lifesaving. Medical professionals can diagnose the cause of the symptoms and perform lifesaving treatment.

Learn more about the symptoms and risk factors of a heart attack and stroke.

The symptoms of both a heart attack and stroke can come on quickly and without warning. Common symptoms include:

Heart attack symptomsStroke symptoms
chest discomfort, such as pressure, squeezing, fullness, or paindrooping face or facial paralysis, usually affecting one side of the face
upper body discomfort, usually affecting the arms, upper back, stomach, or neckarm weakness, usually affecting one side of the body
shortness of breathdifficulty speaking or understanding speech
cold sweatsevere headache with no known cause
lightheadednesstrouble seeing
nausea or vomitingtrouble walking

The symptoms of stroke and heart attack can depend on:

  • the severity of the episode
  • your age
  • your sex
  • your overall health

Both heart attack and stroke are medical emergencies and require prompt medical attention. Call 911 or your local emergency services if you or someone else may be having a stroke or heart attack.

The symptoms of both stroke and heart attack can look and feel different in females than in males, who tend to exhibit the more classic symptoms above.

While females may have more typical symptoms, they can also have different or additional symptoms. These symptoms may be more subtle, which can delay diagnosis and treatment.

Symptoms of stroke and heart attack in females can include:

Additional heart attack symptoms in femalesAdditional stroke symptoms in females
shortness of breath with or without chest discomfortgeneral weakness
back or jaw paindisorientation, confusion, or memory problems
dizziness, lightheadedness, or faintingfatigue
nausea or vomitingnausea or vomiting

Learn more about the symptoms of stroke in females and the symptoms of heart attack in females.

Stroke and heart attack have many risk factors in common. These include:

Additional risk factors for stroke can include:

If you are at risk of stroke or heart attack, you can take some steps to lower your risk and support your cardiovascular health.

Cardiovascular health in the transgender community

Most of the sources used in this article use “men” and “women” to indicate sex and can be assumed to have primarily cisgender participants. However, like most conditions, sex and assigned gender are not the most likely indicators of heart attack or stroke symptoms.

While research on the transgender community is still limited, a 2019 research review states, “The transgender community has a higher rate of behavioral and cardiovascular disease risk factors compared with the cisgender population due to the increase in social stressors, health disparity, and poor socioeconomic status.”

A 2023 research review notes that transgender women using hormone therapy containing estrogen may have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. However, more research is still needed.

A doctor can better help you understand how your specific circumstances can affect your overall cardiovascular health.

Was this helpful?

The outlook following a stroke or heart attack depends greatly on the severity of the event and how quickly you get treatment.

Some people who have a stroke may experience damage that makes walking or talking difficult for a long time. Others may lose some brain function that never returns. For many of those who were treated soon after symptoms began, complete recovery may be possible.

Following a heart attack, you may be able to resume most of the activities you enjoyed before if you do all of the following:

  • follow your doctor’s orders
  • participate in cardiac rehabilitation
  • maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle

Your life expectancy will depend greatly on whether you follow heart-healthy behaviors. If you have a stroke or heart attack, it’s important to take the rehabilitation process seriously and stick with it.

A heart attack typically causes chest pain and discomfort. You may also have other symptoms, and they can also vary based on the severity of the heart attack.

A stroke typically causes facial drooping, weakness on one side of the body, speech difficulties, or all of these symptoms.

Both heart attack and stroke are emergency medical events and require immediate treatment to reduce the risk of death and disability.

If you think you or someone else is having either a stroke or heart attack, call 911 or your local emergency services.