Heart Attacks Can Cause Brain Damage

Article by Moody Neuro

Heart attacks are the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one person dies of a heart attack every 40 seconds.

Not all heart attacks are fatal. More than 805,000 incidents of heart attacks occur each year, with 647,000 cases resulting in death. In many of these cases, heart attack victims go on to recover and resume their everyday lives. Unfortunately, others will have to deal with the lingering physical effects of the heart attack on brain tissues.

Brain Injury & Heart Attacks: How are They Related?

The relationship between a stroke and brain damage is well-established. In a stroke, plaque buildup or blood clots in blood vessels cut off the blood supply to the brain, which damages oxygen-deprived brain tissues. Not many know about the effects of a heart attack on brain tissue function.

A heart attack, known medically as a myocardial infarction, is a condition that occurs when the heart doesn’t receive enough oxygen. A lack of blood flow often causes this to the heart due to the narrowing of the arteries. The arteries may then break due to the intense pressure exerted on their walls, causing a blood clot to form.

The resulting blood clot that forms cuts off the blood supply to the heart. Similar to what happens to the brain during a stroke, oxygen-deprived heart tissues are damaged, causing the organ to lose some of its functionality. When this happens, the heart is unable to pump blood that supplies oxygen to the brain, causing damage to the brain, referred to as a heart attack acquired brain injury (ABI).

How Common Is Brain Damage After A Heart Attack?

Heart attacks are one of the most common causes of nontraumatic brain injuries. The brain cells, called neurons, require a constant supply of blood and oxygen in order to maintain their function. When this supply is cut off, damage to the neurons occurs almost instantaneously.

Cases of brain damage from a heart attack are quite common among heart attack victims. A recent study found that the blood flow among 50% of people who had a heart attack decreased significantly, leading to extensive cognitive impairment.

What Happens to the Brain After a Heart Attack?

The brain needs a continuous supply of oxygen throughout the blood to maintain the neurons’ function. The longer the brain goes without oxygen, the more extensive the damage will be.

In a report published by the National Institute of Health, a heart attack can lead to a severe loss of cognitive functions within the brain. This is why most heart attack victims exhibit the following symptoms of brain damage after a heart attack:

  • Loss of Speech Abilities: Many heart attack patients find it challenging to adequately convey their thoughts through speech. Aside from their difficulties in controlling their ability to speak, many find it difficult to remember common words or phrases and may instead use words outside the proper context.
  • Memory Loss: Oxygen deprivation in the brain disrupts the part of the brain in charge of learning and recalling new information, resulting in short-term memory loss.
  • Visual Impairment: Brain damage from a heart attack may also affect the part of the brain responsible for processing visual information. As a result, victims often find it difficult to see or process objects in front of them.

Can a Heart Attack Cause Permanent Brain Damage?

The amount of time the brain goes with low or no oxygen will determine the severity of the damage to the brain. As more time passes, more brain cells will continue to die, resulting in the loss of gray matter.

In many cases, ABI can be reversed when immediate treatment is given. However, after an extended period, the injuries to the brain become permanent.

In the event of a cardiac arrest, the timeline for immediate care is significantly less. When the heart has stopped, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) must be administered within two minutes. Any delay of more than three minutes can lead to brain injuries that worsen considerably as time passes.

Symptoms of Brain Damage After a Heart Attack

The effects of a heart attack on the brain can differ, depending on the affected region, and can manifest in many ways. Some symptoms of brain damage after a heart attack may include the following:

  • Impaired mobility
  • Loss of dexterity
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Disorientation
  • Poor concentration
  • Delayed response
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Severe fatigue
  • Inability to stay awake
  • Frequent headaches
  • Issues with balance and coordination
  • Double vision
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Impaired hearing
  • Emotional and behavioral changes
  • Drastic changes in personality
  • Seizures

It can be challenging to predict whether symptoms that manifest are temporary or permanent. It is crucial to seek a complete evaluation with your physician to get a full picture and understand your options for treatment or rehabilitation.

Treatment and Rehabilitation After a Heart Attack & Brain Injury

Some people who suffer from a heart attack may be fortunate enough to survive and recover from ABI in just a few weeks. However, some who suffer more severe forms of brain injury may require different forms of therapy for rehabilitation, which include physical, cognitive, speech, and occupational therapy.

Undergoing therapy can help heart attack survivors regain their strength and relearn skills they’ve lost. Complete recovery may still be possible through proper post-brain-injury rehabilitation. For others who suffered permanent brain damage, the goal of rehabilitation is not to fully recover but to learn how to adapt to their new circumstances and regain their independence.

Gain Access to Specialized Post-ABI Care with Moody Neuro

Since 1982, Moody Neuro has been at the forefront of innovation in providing quality post-ABI treatment and rehabilitation. Working with a team of experts who genuinely care about your well-being, we strive to achieve the best outcome by developing a personalized treatment plan that addresses your limitations.

Discover holistic care that aims to maximize your quality of life after a life-changing event. Get in touch with us today to learn more about how we can tackle your challenges together.

Strokes are medical conditions that affect millions globally. In the United States, more than 795,000 people have a stroke each year, with about 610,000 cases being first or new strokes. 

These can lead to a wide range of physical and cognitive impairments. Speech and language disorders are among the most common and most challenging consequences of strokes, occurring in about a third of stroke survivors. 

Understanding Stroke-Induced Speech & Language Disorders

Stroke-induced speech and language disorders significantly impact communication abilities. Among these, aphasia, dysarthria, and apraxia of speech are prevalent. Understanding how they are diagnosed and their specific symptoms can aid in prompt and effective management.


Aphasia is a common outcome of stroke, manifesting as difficulty in speaking, understanding, reading, and writing. There are many different types of aphasia, depending on the affected brain area, and are categorized based on the symptoms present:

  • Expressive Aphasia (Broca’s Aphasia): Characterized by broken speech, limited vocabulary, and difficulty forming complete sentences. Patients often understand what is being said to them but struggle to verbalize responses.
  • Receptive Aphasia (Wernicke’s Aphasia): Patients can produce fluent speech but may lack meaning or include nonsensical words. They often have significant difficulty understanding spoken language.
  • Global Aphasia: A severe form of aphasia where individuals have extensive difficulties with both speech production and comprehension.
  • Anomic Aphasia: Individuals have difficulty finding words, particularly nouns and verbs, making their speech sound vague.


Dysarthria is a speech disorder that affects 20-30% of stroke survivors. It occurs when stroke impacts the muscles responsible for speech, leading to slurred or slow speech that can be hard to understand. It is typically diagnosed through a physical examination and a series of speech evaluations conducted by a speech-language pathologist (SLP). 

It is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Slurred or slow speech that can be difficult to understand
  • Monotone or robotic-sounding speech
  • Difficulty controlling the volume of speech, which may be too loud or too soft
  • Challenges with the rhythm and flow of speech, including rapid speech that’s hard to interrupt or slow, drawn-out speech
  • Respiratory issues affecting the ability to speak loudly or for extended periods

Apraxia of Speech (AOS)

Apraxia of speech is a neurological disorder characterized by difficulty sequencing the movements needed for speech. This is caused by the impact of the stroke on the brain’s pathways involved in producing speech. 

Patients with AOS know what they want to say but struggle to coordinate the muscle movements to articulate words correctly. This results in distorted speech, difficulty initiating speech, or the inability to accurately produce speech sounds or sequences of sounds. 

How Long Is the Stroke Speech & Language Recovery Time?

According to one study on post-stroke speech and language therapy, approximately one-third of stroke patients experience speech problems after a stroke. Many of these individuals begin to recover within a few months, with significant progress typically observed within three to six months.

In another study, 62% of subjects had speech challenges after suffering from a stroke. By six months post-stroke, 74% were able to completely recover their communication abilities. 

However, the figures above provide a general timeline for post-stroke speech and language recovery. Stroke speech recovery time is highly individualized and can vary depending on several factors. These can include the following:

  • Severity of the Stroke: More severe strokes often lead to extensive brain damage, resulting in longer and more challenging recovery periods for speech.
  • Location of the Brain Injury: The brain’s specific regions control different speech and language functions; damage to these areas directly impacts recovery complexity and duration.
  • Age and Overall Health of the Patient: Generally, younger patients with better overall health before the stroke tend to experience faster and more complete recoveries.
  • Pre-existing Conditions and Comorbidities: Conditions such as diabetes or hypertension can slow down recovery by complicating the overall health scenario and rehabilitation process.
  • Individual Variability and Resilience: Personal resilience, the support system’s strength, and the individual’s motivation significantly influence the pace and success of speech recovery efforts.

The first three months after a stroke is a crucial period for recovery, as a majority of stroke patients see the most significant improvement during this period. However, it’s also important to note that, although at a slower pace, recovery can continue well past the 6-month mark with continued therapy and practice. 

This underpins the importance of early intervention and ongoing rehabilitation efforts, including speech therapy, to maximize each patient’s recovery potential. 

What Does the Stroke Speech & Language Recovery Process Look Like?

The journey to regain speech and language after a stroke is multifaceted and varies significantly from one individual to another. Understanding the structured phases of recovery can provide insight into what patients and their families can expect during this challenging time. 

Here’s a closer examination of each phase in the stroke speech recovery process.

Initial Assessment and Diagnosis

Before recovery can begin, a thorough evaluation is conducted by a team of healthcare professionals led by an SLP. This assessment aims to identify the type and severity of the speech and language disorder, be it aphasia, dysarthria, or AOS. The evaluation may include cognitive-linguistic assessments, comprehension tests, speech production analysis, and functional communication measures. 

Based on this assessment, a personalized therapy plan is crafted to address the patient’s specific needs.

Acute Phase

The acute phase typically occurs within the first days to weeks following a stroke. During this period, medical stabilization is the primary focus, with healthcare teams working to manage the immediate effects of the stroke. 

Speech therapy may begin with simple exercises or assessments to gauge the patient’s abilities. However, intensive therapy usually does not start until the patient is medically stable. During the acute phase, the goal is to support overall recovery and prevent complications immediately after the stroke.

Subacute Phase

The subacute phase generally spans from two weeks to three months post-stroke and is characterized by more intensive speech therapy interventions. As the patient’s medical condition stabilizes, the focus shifts to active rehabilitation. Therapy during this phase is tailored to the individual’s specific speech and language deficits and may include:

  • Exercises to improve articulation, fluency, and voice control for those with dysarthria.
  • Language therapy to enhance understanding, speaking, reading, and writing skills in patients with aphasia.
  • Motor speech exercises and strategies to improve speech planning and production in apraxia of speech.

The subacute phase is crucial for taking advantage of the brain’s natural recovery processes and neuroplasticity, where the brain begins reorganizing and adapting to the loss of function.

Chronic Phase

The chronic phase of recovery extends from several months to years after the stroke. It focuses on long-term rehabilitation and adjustment to any residual speech deficits. During this time, patients may continue to see gradual improvements in their speech and language abilities, although the rate of recovery may slow. Therapy in the chronic phase often includes:

  • Advanced communication strategies to cope with ongoing challenges in daily life.
  • Maintenance exercises to preserve and enhance speech gains achieved in earlier phases.
  • Supportive technologies and aids, such as communication devices, to assist in effective communication.
  • Community reintegration activities to help patients return to as normal a life as possible, engaging in social, vocational, or recreational activities.

What Is the Role of Neuroplasticity in Speech & Language Recovery?

Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s fundamental property to change and adapt its responses to new experiences, learning, and environmental changes. This adaptive capacity enables the brain to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections.

When the brain, or a part of the brain, is damaged after a stroke, neuroplasticity is what allows the other parts of the brain to take over the functions of the damaged area. Through targeted rehabilitation and therapy, such as speech therapy for stroke survivors, patients can retrain other brain areas to perform the lost functions and facilitate recovery.

Enhancing Stroke Speech & Language Recovery Time

Adopting a comprehensive approach involving several key strategies is vital to enhance the stroke speech and language recovery time. This multifaceted approach can maximize the chances of regaining speech and communication abilities.

This comprehensive approach must incorporate the following strategies:

  • Early intervention to leverage the brain’s highest potential for neuroplasticity in the initial period following a stroke, significantly improving the chances for recovery.
  • Alternative communication strategies, such as gestures, writing, and visual aids, to help maintain communication during the recovery process. 
  • Adopting technology, including speech-generating devices and software applications designed for speech rehabilitation, for personalized exercises and continuous practice, which is vital for progress.
  • Providing continuous support from psychologists, support groups, and therapy to help manage feelings of frustration, depression, and anxiety, fostering a positive mindset essential for rehabilitation.
  • A healthy diet and lifestyle to supply essential nutrients that support brain function, along with regular physical activity, adequate sleep, and management of medical conditions.

Begin Your Post-Stroke Recovery Journey With Moody Neurorehabilitation

Moody Neurorehabilitation understands the complexities and challenges that come with post-stroke rehabilitation. We are dedicated to supporting patients and their families through this critical time with specialized care and personalized treatment plans.

Since our inception in 1982, Moody Neurorehabilitation has been a leader in brain injury rehabilitation. Our approach centers on providing comprehensive care tailored to each patient’s needs and goals. We believe in treating the whole person, not just the symptoms, to improve overall quality of life.

We invite you to start your recovery journey with us. Contact Moody Neurorehabilitation today to schedule a consultation with our experts. Let us help you navigate the path to recovery with care, compassion, and expertise.