Research has discovered that 35% of Americans have had a mini-stroke, also known as a TIA, without realizing it. Immediate medical attention is recommended, but unfortunately, only 3% of those who have symptoms seek treatment. Why is this so important? These attacks precede fifteen percent of massive strokes. Those who have had a TIA are at greater risk of having a stroke within the next three months.
What Is a Mini Stroke?
A mini stroke is actually a TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack). This happens when a blood clot reduces blood flow to part of your brain. With a TIA, the blood clot resolves quickly and the symptoms begin to abate. In a stroke, the blood clot continues to block the blood flow. This causes permanent damage to your brain. If you experience symptoms of a TIA, you need immediate medical attention. Doctors can run tests to confirm that it’s a TIA and make sure that the blood clot is resolved.
TIAs are usually caused by the build-up of plaque in the arteries. This is also known arteriosclerosis. This decrease in blood flow to your brain makes it difficult for the brain to get the oxygen and nutrients that it needs. This can eventually cause a blood clot. A blood clot can also come from other areas that supply blood to your brain.
There are some risk factors that you can’t change. If you have a family member with a history of TIAs or stroke, you are at a higher risk of having them as well. You are also at a higher risk after age 55. Having previous TIAs also puts you at a higher risk.
Any condition that affects your heart and blood vessels, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and artery diseases, put you at a higher risk of TIA and stroke.
Diabetes is another risk factor. Diabetes increases the severity and speed of narrowing of the arteries due to fatty deposits. Being overweight puts you at risk as well. A waist size over 35 inches in women and 40 inches in men also increase the risk. This is something you can check at home with a measuring tape.
Lifestyle choices can also increase your risk. Smoking, drinking, using illicit drugs, and taking birth control pills all increase your risk of a TIA or stroke.
Symptoms of TIA
The symptoms of a TIA are the same as those of a stroke, but they don’t last as long. Symptoms usually resolve within 10 to 20 minutes. However, the symptoms can be debilitating, and scary for the person experiencing them as well as those around them. A sudden and severe headache is an often unrecognized sign of a TIA. This occurs in about 20% of TIAs. Other common TIA symptoms are:
- Numbness, weakness, and loss of mobility in your face, arms, or legs. This may only occur on one side of your body.
- Trouble speaking or the inability to speak
- Confusion. You may not be able to understand simple statements or recognize those around you.
- Loss of balance
- Severe headache
TIAs are under reported because most people don’t recognize the symptoms. 77% of people report they couldn’t identify a stroke if it was happening to them or a loved one. Over 50% of those people said that they would call 911 if they thought them or someone they know is having a stroke, yet only 3% of those seek treatment. This indicates that most people don’t seek treatment because they don’t understand what happened.
It’s important to know the signs of a stroke and seek medical attention if you believe you are experiencing one. If you have risk factors for TIA, lifestyle changes are essential. They could save your life.
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