Mini-strokes, also known as a transient ischemic attacks (TIA), might last only a few seconds or so, but they demand the same immediate attention as a major stroke.
Dr. Sam Gillette, a cardiologist, talked about mini-strokes at the Feb. 5 Lunch & Learn at the Payson Regional Medical Center’s Senior Circle.
They have acute onset and are generally fully resolved within 24 hours. But don’t wait for 24 hours before getting medical attention.
The victim of a TIA should be seen by a health care professional within three hours, Gillette said.
“If you wake in the night experiencing any symptoms, don’t go back to sleep. You could have another, more severe attack in the night and wake up paralyzed,” said Gillette.
The symptoms of a mini-stroke are often similar to those of a major stroke: face drooping; arm weakness and speech difficulty. However, the symptoms might be less dramatic: confusion; numbness in the arm.
“The key with a TIA is that it’s a warning shot. There is a good chance of a major stroke,” Gillette said.
The causes of TIAs include:
• Uncontrolled blood pressure
• Arterial disease where the arteries leading to the brain are partially blocked or the plaque accumulating in arterial walls breaks off and causes small blockages to the blood flow in the brain
• Atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat, is a common heart condition, can be a significant risk factor for stroke
Gillette said when he is treating a patient who has had a mini-stroke he first looks at their heart to see if there is atrial fibrillation. This may lead to additional tests and possibly even 30 days of monitoring the patient’s heart. Another test used in diagnosing whether someone has had a mini-stroke is an MRI.
“MRIs are very sensitive to indicators of TIAs,” Gillette said.
Treatment options include something as simple as daily use of low-dose aspirin; one of the many blood thinners on the market; an anti-platelet agent; the use of stents.
Gillette added adopting a more heart-healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean Diet, is a good option for everyone.
He said it suggests eating fish two or three times a week; using fish and olive oils; lots of vegetables and olives.