A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a mini stroke that starts with similar neurological signs as a major ischemic stroke. The only difference is in the amount of time that blood flow to the brain is blocked. In a TIA mini stroke blood flow is only blocked for about five minutes. In a major ischemic stroke the blood flow is blocked until the doctors remove the clot that is blocking blood flow to the brain. The doctors may treat it with clot busting drugs or may retrieve the clot.
Symptoms from a mini stroke will usually go away without any treatment within an hour although sometimes the symptoms can last for about 24 hours.
TIA Mini Stroke must be Treated or it can Lead to a Major Stroke
Medical treatment must be initiated for a TIA mini stroke or else there may be a future major stroke that can lead to disability.
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. Arial fibrillation is 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
- Drugs to lower blood pressure
Besides the medical treatment to prevent a future stroke, it is important to also make positive lifestyle changes to improve health and prevent future strokes or even a heart attack.
- 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. See our blog post from February 1, 2019 about how eating nuts may help to prevent strokes, heart disease and cancer.
If you or your loved one have suffered a major stroke that has left you disabled and are looking for a long-term skilled nursing care facility, check out the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York.
Stroke is one of the leading causes of disability and death in seniors. TIA mini strokes should never be ignored as they are often warnings of an impending major stroke. It is crucial to seek medical care for a TIA in the hope of preventing a major stroke.