Senior Health and What You Need to Know About Mini Strokes

Each year in the United States, approximately 795,000 people suffer a stroke. A majority of stroke victims are people in their senior years. This includes individuals who suffer what is known as mini-strokes. In this article, we provide you with vital information about mini-strokes.

In this article about seniors and mini-strokes, we address four key topics:

  • Overview of mini-stroke
  • Signs of a mini-stroke
  • What happens after a mini-stroke
  • Tips to prevent a mini-stroke

Overview of a Mini Stroke

What people oftentimes refer to as a mini-stroke is actually something medically known as a transient ischemic attack, also called a TIA. A transient ischemic attack or mini-stroke is defined as a brief interruption of blood flow to a part of the brain, spinal cord, or retina. This brief interruption in the blood floor can result in what fairly can be called temporary stroke-like symptoms.

It is important to note that while an individual who experiences a transient ischemic attack can have stroke-like symptoms, this type of medical event does not damage brain cells or cause permanent disability, which can be the case with an actual stroke. The reality is that one in three people who experience a transient ischemic attack will have a subsequent stroke. In fact, the risk of a stroke after a transient ischemic attack or mini-stroke is particularly high within 48 hours after a transient ischemic attack. Therefore, a senior who experiences a transient ischemic attack or mini-stroke needs to take the event seriously.

Signs of a Mini Stroke

The signs or symptoms of a mini-stroke include:

  • Numbness or muscle weakness, usually on one side of the body
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding speech
  • Dizziness
  • Double vision
  • Severe headache
  • Loss of balance
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Abnormal taste
  • Abnormal smell
  • Tingling sensation
  • Flickering in front of the eyes

The symptoms of a transient ischemic attack or mini-stroke may last only last for a few minutes. There are instances when these symptoms can last upwards of 24 hours or even a bit longer. The American Stroke Association estimates that approximately one in three people who experience a mini stroke will go on to have a full-blown stroke at some juncture in time. Approximately 50 percent of these individuals will experience a “regular” stroke within a year of the mini-stroke.

Who can Have a Mini Stroke?

The American Stroke Association advises:

Anyone can have a mini-stroke, but the risk generally increases with age. Mini strokes are typically more common in people over 55, in individuals of South Asian, African, or Caribbean descent, and in people with other existing health conditions like diabetes. Being overweight, eating a diet high in salt and fat, and smoking or drinking alcohol can also put you at a higher risk of TIA. For patients who have already experienced a stroke, a TIA can sometimes signal a second stroke in the future. Thus, it’s especially important for this population to familiarize themselves with the signs of a TIA.

What Happens After a Mini Stroke?

Because a transient ischemic attack can be a precursor of an actual stroke, if you believe that you’ve experienced a TIA or mini-stroke, it is important for you to seek a prompt medical evaluation. You need to seek medical attention even if the symptoms persist for only a matter of minutes.

Many doctors highly recommend that you immediately seek medical attention if you experience symptoms of a transient ischemic attack or mini-stroke. In other words, these physicians actually recommend that you call 911 for transport to an emergency room or that you have someone drive you immediately to the hospital.

While it is quite likely that the symptoms described earlier in this article may be associated with a transient ischemic attack or a mini-stroke, it is also possible that you are experiencing what may very well transition into a major stroke. You are far better to be as proactive as possible in seeking medical intervention in the event you may actually be in the midst of a major stroke.

We also mentioned the possibility that some individuals do have a full-blown stroke after experiencing a transient ischemic attack. You put yourself in the best possible position to prevent a major stroke following a transient ischemic attack by seeking medical attention and care, if necessary, directly following a TIA.

Tips to Prevent a Mini Stroke

There are some tips and tactics you can employ as a means of preventing a transient ischemic attack or even a major stroke going forward in the future. Many of these suggestions are lifestyle changes. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention makes these suggestions for preventing a mini-stroke or a full-blown stroke:

Select healthy foods and drinks: Choosing healthy meals and snack options can help you prevent stroke. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Eating foods low in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol and high in fiber can help prevent high cholesterol. Limiting salt (sodium) in your diet can also lower your blood pressure. High cholesterol and high blood pressure increase your chances of having a stroke.

Keep a healthy weight: Having overweight or obesity increases your risk for stroke. To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, doctors often calculate your body mass index (BMI). If you know your weight and height, you can calculate your BMI at CDC’s Assessing Your Weight website. Doctors sometimes also use waist and hip measurements to measure excess body fat.

Stop Smoking: Cigarette smoking greatly increases your chances of having a stroke. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk of stroke. Your doctor can suggest ways to help you quit.

Limit alcohol consumption: Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which can raise your blood pressure. Men should have no more than two drinks per day, and women should have no more than one per day.

Consider medication: Depending on the state of your health and your overall risk for another mini-stroke or a major stroke, your doctor may recommend medication. If that is the case, you need to be diligent in taking your medication.

Control blood pressure: There are a number of steps you can take to obtain or maintain healthy blood pressure. These include:

  • Medication
  • Losing weight
  • Healthy eating
    Regular exercise

Control diabetes: Talk with your healthcare team about treatment options. Your doctor may recommend certain lifestyle changes, such as getting more physical activity or choosing healthier foods. These actions will help keep your blood sugar under good control and help lower your risk for stroke.

Treat heart disease: If you have certain heart conditions, such as coronary artery disease or atrial fibrillation, also known as irregular heartbeat, your healthcare team may recommend medical treatment or surgery. Taking care of heart problems can help prevent stroke.

You need to take a mini-stroke seriously, even though a transient ischemic attack may not have immediately serious medical consequences. You must treat a mini-stroke as a warning to be taken seriously that a more serious and potentially deadly medical event may be looming in the future for you if you do not make changes in your life, like those we have discussed in this article.