A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a mini stroke, but should never be ignored, as it is usually a key early warning sign of a major stroke that may be about to strike.
Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)
A transient ischemic attack (TIA), which is a mini stroke begins with similar neurological symptoms as a major ischemic stroke. The main difference is that during a mini stroke (TIA) blood flow to the brain is blocked by a small clot for about five minutes, whereas in a major ischemic stroke blood flow to the brain is blocked until the doctors treat it by clot busting drugs or are able to retrieve the blood clot that is blocking blood flow to the brain. Most of the time symptoms from a mini stroke will go away without treatment within an hour, although there are cases where the symptoms last up to 24 hours. However, if medical treatment to prevent a future major stroke is not begun, then down the line there may be a major stroke that can lead to disability.
Untreated TIA Mini Stroke can Lead to a Major Stroke
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that more than a third of people who have a TIA mini stroke and do not receive medical treatment have a major stroke within one year and about 10-15% of people will have a major stroke within three months after having experienced a TIA mini stroke. The Stroke Organization states that 40% of the people who have a TIA mini stroke will not only have a major stroke, but almost half of all major strokes happen within a few days after having a TIA.
Symptoms of a TIA Mini Stroke
- Weakness or a feeling of numbness, especially if it is on one side of the body, in the face, arm or leg.
- Speaking is difficult as well as understanding speech
- Vision problems in one or both eyes
- Difficulty walking and maintaining balance
TIA Mini Stroke is a Medical Emergency
A TIA should be treated just the same as a major stroke. Phone 911 right away. Do not wait to see if it will get worse before phoning for emergency help.
What Causes a TIA Mini Stroke
Blood flow is reduced at a narrow part of a major artery like the carotid artery that carries blood to the brain.
A buildup of plaque causes narrowing in a small blood vessel in the brain and this can cause a temporary cut off or reduced blood flow to the brain. This may be a result of coronary artery disease (CAD).
A blood clot forms in the heart that travels to the brain and blocks blood flow to the brain. This is commonly caused by atrial fibrillation a condition where the heart beat becomes irregular – either too slow or too fast. The heart is not able to properly pump blood and clots form in the heart.
Preventing a Major Stroke after a TIA Mini Stroke
Doctors will prescribe medical drugs or other treatments to try to prevent a future major stroke. These might be as follows:
- Drugs to dissolve the clot
- Blood thinning anti-coagulant drugs to prevent the formation of blood clots in people with atrial fibrillation
- Blood pressure lowering drugs
Making positive lifestyle changes can go a long way to protecting the body against future cardiovascular events like strokes and heart attacks.
Quit smoking. Nicotine in tobacco causes blood vessels to constrict and this raises blood pressure. You can enroll in a quit smoking program and get help for quitting smoking from the National Cancer Institute’s Smoking Quitline at 1-877-44U-QUIT (1-877-448-7848).
Limit or stop drinking alcoholic drinks. You can also enroll in a program to quit drinking such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
Get your blood pressure under control. High blood pressure is one of the biggest risks for having a stroke.
If you are a diabetic you must do everything possible to keep your blood sugar (glucose) at a healthy level.
Get plenty of physical exercise.
Watch your weight and keep it at a healthy level.
Follow a healthy diet like the Mediterranean Diet that is rich in fresh fruits, colorful leafy green, yellow and red vegetables, fish and extra virgin olive oil and low in red meat and and dairy foods. For more about the Mediterranean Diet see our blog post from April 11, 2018. Also, see our blog post from April 19, 2018 about how cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts can help prevent heart attacks and strokes. Our blog post from February 14, 2019 shows how extra virgin olive oil and getting a good night’s sleep can prevent blood clots that lead to heart attacks and strokes.
If you or your loved one have suffered a major stroke and are looking for a residential rehab skilled in post stroke care and rehabilitation, the Royal Suites Healthcare and Rehabilitation in scenic Galloway Township, New Jersey not only offers expert post-stroke care, but is surrounded by eight acres of woods and beautiful landscaped gardens. See our blog post from December 7, 2018 that shows how living near greenery can prevent heart attacks and strokes.
Stroke is one of the leading causes of disability in seniors. TIA mini strokes should never be ignored as they are often warnings of an impending major stroke.