Transient Ischemic Attacks: Understanding Mini Strokes

Apr 28, 2016

Transient Ischemic Attacks: Understanding Mini Strokes

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A transient ischemic attack (TIA), more commonly known as a mini-stroke, occurs when a temporary blood clot restricts blood flow to the brain or another major artery. A mini-stroke is a warning sign that a major stroke may occur further down the line. In fact, one in three people who have a TIA will go on to have a major stroke, and this risk is especially high in the 48 hours after a TIA.

A mini-stroke is usually resolved in minutes to hours, but symptoms can last up to 24 hours. The main difference between a stroke and a TIA is that the blockage in a mini-stroke is temporary, or transient. 

While TIAs typically do not cause permanent damage to the brain, they should be taken as a serious warning sign that you are at risk for having a major stroke.

What Causes a Mini-Stroke?

  • Low blood flow: This usually happens at a narrow part of a major artery, such as the heart or brain.
  • Another blood clot: If there is a blood clot in another part o the body, the clot can break off and block other blood vessels.
  • Narrowing of a blood vessel in the brain: Plaque (a fatty substance) can sometimes block blood flow temporarily, causing a mini-stroke.

There should be no difference in how an individual responds to a stroke and mini-stroke, considering the signs and symptoms are the same. 

Signs and Symptoms of a Stroke

  • Numbness or weakness of the face, arm, leg, or one side of the body
  • Confusion, trouble speaking and understanding speech
  • Difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
  • Trouble walking due to dizziness and lack of balance and coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache

Stroke Prevention

The goal of stroke management is to lessen the chances of a future stroke and better understand the warning signs of a stroke by controlling stroke risk factors.

Lifestyle Changes

  • Change in diet
  • Increase of physical activity
  • Limiting alcohol intake
  • Not smoking

Medications to Prevent Strokes

Recognizing Signs of a Stroke

To recognize signs of a stroke, remember to act F.A.S.T.

  • F – Face drooping
  • A – Arm weakness
  • S – Speech difficulty
  • T – Time to call 911

Fast Facts About Strokes

  • Around 40% of people who have a mini-stroke will suffer a major stroke
  • Nearly half of strokes occur a few days after a TIA
  • Symptoms of a mini-stroke are the same as a stroke
  • Home treatment is not acceptable for a stroke, you must call 911

Again, recognizing the signs, symptoms, and presentation of mini-strokes can serve to further prevent full strokes and maintain a healthy life in general!

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