Many people are aware of issues relating to strokes, including early warning signs or symptoms. Strokes often affect one side of the body and can include impaired speech, restricted physical abilities, and cause a weakness or numbness in the arm, face, or leg. But fewer people are aware of Transient Ischemic Attacks, or TIA’s, which are sometimes called “mini strokes”. There are a few important distinctions and indicators with this specific type of attack that people might not realize.

What is TIA?

TIA episodes involve the same origins as an ischemic stroke (the most common form of a stroke) with a notable difference.  Unlike an ischemic stroke, where a clot will block the supply of blood to the brain, blood blockage with TIA is brief and there is typically no long-term damage. Symptoms usually fade away in less than an hour without causing any brain damage. The danger is that this can fool someone or give a false sense of security that the initial symptoms are nothing serious. The reality is that TIA can be a precursor to a more significant stroke, so identifying TIA serves as both a warning and an opportunity to prevent a future stroke. A few quick facts:

  • An estimated 240,000 people are affected each year
  • Roughly 50% of these people experience symptoms that last only a few minutes, but in some rare cases symptoms can last up to 24 hours
  • Symptoms can include vision problems, slurred speech and problems understanding speech, confusion, weakness, and loss of coordination such as difficulty walking
  • 1 out of every 3 people that have this type of attack will subsequently have a stroke

While TIA can occur with people at any age, adults aged 55+ are affected most often. TIA can be hereditary, but there are other factors that can increase the risk and include:

  • Atherosclerosis (a narrowing or blockage of the arteries)
  • High Cholesterol levels
  • High blood pressure
  • Atrial Fibrillation, or A-Fib (irregular heart rhythm)
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol

How to minimize the risk of a TIA – As with a stroke, TIA is considered a coronary risk equivalent. It’s all about your heart! So, understanding the various risks factors and trying to live a healthier lifestyle are the best ways to prevent a TIA. Some of the most important ways to guard against a TIA attack, as well as a variety of other health-related issues, include: avoiding smoking cigarettes, limiting cholesterol and fat intake, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, minimizing the amount of sodium/salt in your diet, exercising regularly, limiting alcohol consumption, and maintaining a healthy weight.

As with any medical issue or potential medical issue, you should always consult with your doctor to identify and implement the best course of action to optimize health results.