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Yes, a Mini-Stroke IS an Emergency

January 08, 2024
If you’ve ever known someone who had a stroke, you know that intensive rehabilitation is often needed as part of stroke recovery. But what about someone who has a mini-stroke?

A mini-stroke doesn’t sound like much of a danger. After all, it’s mini. The reality is that a mini-stroke is often a sign that a full-blown stroke could occur. 

What exactly is a mini-stroke, and how does one impact your health? Keep reading to get the details.

What to Know About Stroke

Before we dive into what a mini-stroke is, let’s first define what a stroke is. Stroke, which is a type of brain attack, is the fifth leading cause of death among Americans and a leading cause of disability. Each year, nearly 800,000 Americans have a stroke.

There are two types of stroke—ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ischemic strokes are by far the most common, causing nearly 90% of all strokes. 

This type of stroke occurs when a clot forms and blocks the flow of blood to the brain. When this happens, the brain is deprived of the oxygen it needs to function.

A hemorrhagic stroke, on the other hand, is caused by a blood vessel in the brain rupturing. This floods the brain tissue with blood, putting pressure on the brain, while also depriving it of the oxygenated blood it needs to function.

Both types of stroke can vary in severity. The longer a stroke goes untreated (and the longer the brain is deprived of blood), the more damage that occurs in the brain.

Prompt treatment is needed to restore proper blood flow, and intensive rehabilitation is typically needed following a stroke to restore abilities lost when the brain was deprived of oxygen.

The Facts About Mini-Stroke

So, what is a mini-stroke? It’s exactly what it sounds like. A mini-stroke is a smaller, more fleeting version of an ischemic stroke.

Formally called a transient ischemic attack (TIA), a mini-stroke occurs when a blood clot temporarily cuts off blood flow to the brain. The difference between a mini-stroke and a full-blown ischemic stroke is that the clot is temporary and often dissipates within a few minutes.

Symptoms caused by a mini-stroke are similar to an ischemic stroke, but usually go away within five minutes. Symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty understanding speech
  • Dizziness
  • Severe headache with no known cause
  • Slurred speech
  • Vision problems in one or both eyes
  • Weakness, numbness, or paralysis on one side or the other

While the symptoms won’t linger for long, it’s important to take them seriously. Having a mini-stroke is a red flag that you’re at risk of an ischemic stroke. In fact, one in five people who have a mini-stroke have an ischemic stroke within 90 days.

If you experience any of the symptoms outlined above, even for only a few minutes, seek medical attention. In an emergency setting, a medical provider can do a full physical exam and order imaging scans to take a good look at your brain. 

If it’s confirmed you experienced a TIA, followup care and treatment will be recommended to help you avoid a stroke.

How to Lower Your Risk of a Mini-Stroke

There’s no foolproof way to prevent a stroke of any kind, including a mini-stroke, but you can take steps to lower your risk. Start here:

Manage any conditions you have. You’re at a higher risk of having a stroke if you have high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, AFib, or heart disease. Work with your medical providers to effectively manage any health conditions you have, which will lower your risk.

Get to (and maintain) a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of a stroke. Talk with your primary care provider about what a healthy weight looks like for you, then take steps to lose weight, if needed.

Move your body often. Being physically active decreases your risk of developing many serious health issues, including stroke. Experts recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week, which is about 22 minutes per day.

Fuel your body in a healthy way. Fill your plate with antioxidant-filled fruits and veggies, supplemented by portions of lean protein (like fish, chicken, or tofu) and whole grains. Mix in a small amount of healthy fats, like those found in avocados, nuts, and fatty fish.

Don’t smoke. Smoking damages and weakens the blood vessels throughout the body, including those in the brain. If you smoke, work with a medical provider to create a quit plan that will work best for you. 

The steps outlined above are a great way for anyone to lower their risk of experiencing a stroke and can also help you lower your risk of a stroke after having a mini-stroke. If you experience stroke symptoms at any point, even if they don’t last long, seek immediate medical attention.

Prompt intervention and treatment can help limit the effects of a stroke—and in the case of a mini-stroke, can lower the risk of experiencing an ischemic stroke.

If you or a loved one experience a mini-stroke, help is available close to home. The West Tennessee Healthcare Neuroscience & Spine Center offers comprehensive care related to the brain, including the prevention and treatment of stroke. To find a provider click here or call 731-541-9490.