New guidance from the American Heart Association emphasizes the danger in downplaying transient ischemic attacks
Every year, at least 240,000 people in the US experience what doctors call a transient ischemic attack (TIA), or what has commonly been known as a “mini stroke.” While alarming in the moment, these events often pass relatively quickly and, as a result, can sometimes be dismissed or even left unreported and forgotten. The name “mini stroke” even suggests that what has occurred is not a serious event, but something small.
But the experts at the American Heart Association have a new name for the phenomenon: a warning stroke. Nearly 1 in 5 people who experience a TIA will suffer a full-blown stroke within three months, recent studies say, with half of those occurring only two days after the initial warning.
There’s nothing “mini” about it, they say. It’s a warning.
What Is A Transient Ischemic Attack?
A transient ischemic attack, or TIA, occurs when the blood flow to the brain is temporarily blocked. This blockage results in a dangerous lack of oxygen to the brain, much like a full stroke, and presents with the same symptoms as a stroke.
These symptoms include:
- Facial droop
- Weakness or numbness on one side of the body
- Slurred speech or trouble finding the right words
- Dizziness, vision loss, or difficulty walking
To help recognize the most common signs of a stroke of any kind, remember to Be F.A.S.T.
F = Face drooping
Ask the person to smile. Is the smile lopsided or uneven?
A = Arm weakness
Ask the person to raise both arms in the air. Does one arm drift downward?
S = Speech difficulty
Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Is their speech slurred?
T = Time to call 911
If the person is exhibiting any of the symptoms of a stroke, call 911 immediately.
And you must be fast because, when it comes to brain function, every second matters.
However, the temporary nature of the incident is what distinguishes the event from a full-blown stroke. Symptoms will likely come on strong but then fade relatively quickly and likely pass within minutes, without any permanent damage. Because of the temporary nature of TIAs, they are often downplayed and it is suspected that many aren’t even reported.
But new guidance from the American Heart Association recommends that all TIAs be reported and taken very seriously.
Who Is At Risk For A TIA?
A stroke can happen to anyone, but your chances do increase with age and there are risk factors that increase your odds.
These risk factors include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Atrial fibrillation
And according to the AHA, stroke rates double every 10 years after age 55.
What Should I Do If I Think I’ve Had A Warning Stroke?
Call 911 and seek help immediately. Ask them to take you to the nearest Comprehensive Stroke Center.
A TIA is a major warning and anyone who has experienced a TIA should seek professional medical help at once. The chance of an additional—and worse—stroke is very real. Some people who seek help after a TIA find that they’ve actually suffered a full stroke and are incredibly lucky to be alive.
To learn more about neurological services at Sarasota Memorial, where you’ll find the only nationally recognized and state-certified Comprehensive Stroke Center in Sarasota County, click here.
To read the report from the American Heart Association, click here.
Written by Sarasota Memorial copywriter Philip Lederer, MA, who crafts a variety of external communications for the healthcare system. SMH’s in-house wordsmith, Lederer earned his Master’s degree in Public Administration and Political Philosophy from Morehead State University, KY.