Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)
Your symptoms were caused by a TIA, or mini-stroke. Even though your symptoms have gone away, this condition is as serious as a full stroke. It means you are more likely to have a full stroke. About 1 in 3 people who have a TIA go on to have a full stroke. And 4% to 10% of those people will have the stroke within 2 days.
A TIA is caused when something decreases or blocks blood flow to a part of your brain. A TIA often happens when a blood clot travels to a blood vessel in the brain. The clot reduces or blocks blood flow. This causes the symptoms you had. After a short while, the clot dissolves. Blood flows again, and the symptoms go away. People with hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) are at higher risk for a TIA. So are people who have an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation.
A TIA causes symptoms similar to a stroke, but they last less than 24 hours. A full stroke causes symptoms that last more than 24 hours and may be permanent. But even if your symptoms only lasted a short time, the TIA may have damaged your brain tissue. Once you have had a TIA, you are at risk of having a full stroke. You will need tests to look at the blood flow to your brain. The tests can also rule out other causes of your symptoms. The tests may include an ultrasound of the arteries in your neck and an evaluation of your heart. They may also include a CT scan of your brain, an MRI scan of your brain, or both. If your healthcare provider finds problems, he or she will recommend treatment with medicines, procedures, or both.
Your provider may prescribe medicines to reduce your chance of having another TIA and stroke. These may include medicines that prevent blood clots, such as antiplatelet medicines and blood thinners (anticoagulants). Your doctor may recommend other treatment. This may include a procedure to open up a blocked artery in your neck.
The following guidelines will help you take care of yourself at home:
Take any medicines your doctor has prescribed as directed. These may include antiplatelet medicines or medicines for other conditions, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
A TIA is a serious event that puts you at risk of having a full stroke. Because of this, it is important to take steps to help prevent a stroke from happening. Your doctor will look at all of your risk factors when deciding on what other treatment you may need.
Ways to reduce your risk for stroke
High blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, heavy drinking, and smoking are risk factors for stroke and heart disease. You can control these by taking medicines and making diet and lifestyle changes. One way to help prevent a stroke is to take aspirin or a similar medicine every day. But don't take daily aspirin unless your healthcare provider tells you to.
Your provider will work with you to make lifestyle changes to help prevent a stroke.
Your healthcare provider will give you information about changes you may need to make to your diet. You may need to see a registered dietitian for help with diet changes. Changes may include:
Eating less fat and cholesterol
Eating less salt (sodium). This is especially important if you have high blood pressure.
Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables
Eating lean proteins, such as fish, poultry, beans, and peas
Eating less red meat and processed meats
Using low-fat dairy products
Using vegetable and nut oils in limited amounts
Limiting how many sweets and processed foods such as chips, cookies, and baked goods you eat
Limiting how much alcohol you drink
Your healthcare provider may recommend that you get more exercise if you have not been as active as possible. He or she may suggest that you get 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. You should do this at least 3 to 4 days a week. A few examples of moderate to vigorous exercise are:
Other ways to reduce your risk
Weight management. If you are overweight or obese, your healthcare provider will work with you to lose weight and lower your body mass index (BMI) to a normal or near-normal level. Making diet changes and increasing physical activity can help.
Smoking. If you smoke, break the habit. Enroll in a stop smoking program to improve your chances of success.
Stress. Learn how to manage your stress. This will help you deal with stress at home and at work.
Call your doctor for an appointment in the next few days for another evaluation, or as advised. This is to make a plan for preventing another TIA or stroke. You may need to see a neurologist to follow up on your TIA. A neurologist is a doctor who specializes in treating brain and nervous system problems. You may need other tests or procedures.
If you had an X-ray, CT scan, MRI scan, or ECG (electrocardiogram), a specialist will review it. You’ll be told of any new findings that will affect your care.
Call 911 if any of these occur:
Any of your TIA symptoms return
New problems with speech, vision, walking, or weakness or numbness of the face or on one side of the body
Severe headache, fainting spell, dizziness, or seizure