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6 Signs of a Transient Ischemic Attack

Transient Ischemic Attack Symptoms

Approximately 240,000 people in the U.S. suffer from a transient ischemic attack (TIA) each year. A transient ischemic attack, commonly called a mini stroke, is a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain. Brain tissue doesn’t die as it does in a normal stroke because the blood supply to the brain is restored quickly. While a TIA typically lasts a few minutes and doesn’t cause permanent damage, it should serve as a warning sign that a more severe stroke may be coming, giving you the opportunity to prevent it. So, let’s discuss transient ischemic attack symptoms.

What Causes a Transient Ischemic Attack?

Transient ischemic attacks are similar to ischemic strokes where a clot blocks blood flow to the brain. However, the blockage is brief in a TIA and doesn’t result in permanent damage.

There are various factors that can lead to a blockage of blood flow, including:

  • Narrowing of the arteries caused by plaque buildup (atherosclerosis). The plaques can decrease blood flow through the artery, or plaque buildup can break off and become lodged in the smaller blood vessels of the brain, resulting in a clot.
  • A blood clot from another area of the body, commonly the heart, moves to an artery that supplies the brain.
  • Artery wall spasms.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Cerebral artery stenosis.
  • Lack of oxygenated blood flow to the brain that can happen if you are severely anemic, have carbon monoxide poisoning, polycythemia, or leukemia.

Risk Factors for Transient Ischemic Attack

Various risk factors for transient ischemic attack have been identified. There are some you can change and others that you cannot, including:

  • Increasing age.
  • Family history of stroke.
  • Being male.
  • African American or Hispanic ethnicity.
  • Physical inactivity.
  • Certain medical conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, atrial fibrillation and high cholesterol.
  • Smoking.
  • Drug abuse.
  • Obesity.

6 Common Transient Ischemic Attack Symptoms

Symptoms of a TIA start suddenly and usually resolve within an hour. Here are some symptoms that can be experienced.

  1. Weakness or numbness: sudden numbness or weakness of the face, legs, or arms, most often on one side of the body. Arm weakness may make it difficult to raise one or both arms and keep them raised. The eyes or mouth on one side of the body may droop, and there may be an inability to smile. This can also cause difficulty walking.
  2. Confusion: can be paired with memory loss or difficulty understanding simple statements.
  3. Speaking difficulties: sudden slurred or garbled speech (dysarthria) or having difficulty finding words (dysphasia).
  4. Vision changes: sudden blurred or loss of vision in one or both eyes.
  5. Balance issues: sudden dizziness, loss of balance or lack of coordination.
  6. Headache: sudden headache that is severe with no known cause.

Are There Complications?

Transient ischemic attacks typically only last a few minutes and don’t result in permanent damage. However, having a TIA may be a warning sign that you may suffer from a more severe ischemic stroke in the near future. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one-third of people who have a TIA experience a more severe stroke within a year. Strokes can lead to permanent damage and even death in some cases, so it is crucial to speak to your doctor if you think you have had a TIA.

Reducing Your Risk of TIA

There are various lifestyle changes that you can make to reduce your risk of future TIAs or stroke, including:

  • Quit smoking.
  • Monitor blood pressure to ensure it is within healthy limits – target blood pressure for adults who have a history of TIA is 140/90 mmHG.
  • Monitor cholesterol levels – target low density lipoprotein level for adults who have a history of TIA is 100 mg/dl and less than 70 mg/dl for adults who also have diabetes.
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and veggies, fish, poultry, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, olive oil and low-fat dairy. Limit your consumption of red meat, processed and sugary foods and reduce salt intake to less than 2.4 grams each day.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol consumption – up to a maximum of two drinks per day for men, and one drink per day for women.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise – 30 to 40 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise that gets your heart pumping, such as biking, swimming, or brisk walking. Three to four times per week is recommended.
  • Wearing your CPAP device every night if you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea.

In Conclusion

While symptoms of TIA typically resolve quickly and leave no permanent damage, it may be warning sign that a more severe stroke is in the near future. Therefore, if you suspect that you may have suffered a TIA it is important to seek treatment immediately. Treatment is focused on preventing further TIA’s or stroke through the use of lifestyle changes, medications and in some cases, surgery.

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