In order to understand the relation between these two concepts, we should first understand what is a heart attack and what is a stroke. A heart attack happens when an area of heart muscle is damaged after being deprived of oxygen, whereas an ischemic stroke (different to a hemorrhagic stroke) is a “brain attack” and occurs when oxygen has been deprived to brain cells. Although they both occur in different parts of the body, there’s more to their similarities than meets the eye: the causes for both can be same.

As different as their symptoms and effects may be, heart attacks and stroke risk factors can be very similar. If a heart attack or an ischemic stroke occurs, it means that an artery has been blocked, whether in the heart or brain areas. Moreover, having a heart attack is a risk factor for having an ischemic stroke as an ischemic stroke is a risk factor for having a heart attack. Risk factors for strokes and heart attacks include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, sedentarism, and obesity.   

Basically, they can both be caused by a process called atherosclerosis, which literally means “hardening of the arteries”. This process occurs when arteries are narrowed due to fatty sediments on their walls. If part of this sediment goes lose, it can also produce a clot. When a blood clot occurs in coronary arteries (heart) and reduces the blood supply to the heart, a heart attack may occur. But it can happen in arteries in other parts of the body, as well, like the brain, thus causing an ischemic stroke, the most common type.

To answer the question of how heart attacks are linked to strokes (ischemic), the most important aspect is that as their causes are similar, their risk factors are also similar. Therefore, what we can do to reduce risk is also quite the same, when it comes to risk factors that are in our control. In the end, it all comes down to taking good care of oneself, staying healthy and taking periodical controls to check risk levels.