One of the most telling indicators of impending stroke is a transient ischemic attack (TIA). Sometimes called a “warning stroke” or “mini stroke,” TIA occurs when a clot temporarily interrupts blood flow in an artery and the brain is deprived of oxygen. About one-third of patients who suffer TIA later have a full stroke, so immediate medical attention is important.
Risk Factors for TIA
Stroke can occur in people of almost any age, gender, or ethnicity. However, many of the risk factors for stroke can be minimized through healthy lifestyle choices. The following factors increase a person’s risk for stroke:
- Cigarette smoking
- Heart disease
- Diabetes (Type I or II)
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- High blood pressure
Healthy diet and sufficient exercise are key components for reducing risk of stroke. These habits help to lower cholesterol and prevent obesity, both of which are central to maintaining a healthy heart.
Symptoms of TIA
The same clots that cause a full-blown stroke also cause TIA. Therefore the symptoms of TIA are generally the same:
· Sudden weakness or numbness in the face, arms, or legs, often on only one side of the body
· Abrupt inability to communicate or recall words (also called aphasia)
· Sudden vision problems, in either one or both eyes
· Swift and severe unexplained headache
· Sudden difficulty walking, maintaining balance, or coordinating movement
TIA generally pass quickly, and patients may even doubt that they’ve had a stroke. Usually symptoms subside within minutes, although they may remain for up to 24 hours. Unlike a stroke, a TIA causes no damage to the brain.
The TIA-Stroke Connection
A significant portion of patients who have TIA will eventually have a full-blown stroke. Yet with quick action, a stroke can often be prevented with prompt intervention. Patients who suspect they are suffering a TIA or stroke should immediately call 911. A doctor can determine whether the symptoms are caused by TIA or another medical condition, such as seizure, migraine, or other cardiac condition.
If the doctor diagnoses TIA, the patient may be prescribed either medication or surgery. Aspirin (an anti-platelet) is a common treatment for TIA patients with no other cardiac conditions. Patients who have atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) may be placed on anti-coagulants.