Have you ever heard the term “mini-stroke” or “TIA stroke”? If so, you may wonder what they are and how they differ from a “regular” stroke. 

Below, we give a plain-English answer to the question “what is a TIA stroke,” how it’s different from other strokes, and tips on how to avoid one.

What Is A TIA Stroke?

A transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a mini-stroke, occurs when the brain’s blood supply is temporarily cut off. Akin to a temporary power outage, it loses blood flow for a short period of time and ceases functioning.

Symptoms of a mini-stroke are pretty similar to that of a “regular” one, such as:

  • Numbness on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion
  • Lack of coordination
  • Severe headaches
  • Trouble understanding others as well as speaking
  • Loss of balance

What is different is a TIA lasts for a much shorter period of time than a stroke does. Your symptoms will typically resolve within 24 hours, hence the term “mini-stroke.”

How does TIA Stroke differ from other Strokes?

The primary distinction between this stroke and others is that TIA symptoms almost always resolve within a short period of time. 

As mentioned, TIAs last only a few minutes and do not cause permanent damage. 

With that being said, although the decrease in blood supply is typically fast and temporary (less than 5 minutes), this is a medical emergency.

TIA: a Precautionary Tale

Many people do not seek medical attention for a TIA due to the transient nature of the symptoms. 

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that more than a third of people who do not receive treatment for a TIA within a year will have a major stroke.

The risk of stroke is increased significantly in the 48 hours following a TIA. Thus, a mini-stroke can be a precursor to a full-blown stroke and an opportunity to prevent one.

Blood clots are the most common cause of mini-strokes. When a clot forms in an artery leading to the brain, blood cannot flow freely, depriving the brain of the oxygen it requires to function properly.

Numerous factors may contribute to the occurrence of this event, including:

  • Atherosclerosis (plaque): a condition in which fatty deposits cause the arteries to stiffen, thicken, narrow, and lose their flexibility due to the fat buildup. This can obstruct blood flow through an artery or even cause a clot to form.
  • Blood clots in the bloodstream as a result of heart disease, cardiovascular disease, or an abnormal heart rhythm 
  • Blood clots caused by a blood disorder, such as sickle cell disease
  • An embolism or blood clot that has traveled from another part of the body 
  • An air bubble in the bloodstream

So, what can you do to avoid a full stroke?

Tips to Prevent a Stroke after TIA Stroke

First, if you suspect you or a loved one are experiencing a stroke, be sure to seek medical care immediately, and follow the advice of a medical professional.

For prevention, patients are often encouraged to manage their vascular risk factors, including high blood pressure and Type 2 Diabetes (if present).

It is often advised to monitor diet closely and reduce sodium intake as much as possible. A popular option is the Mediterranean diet. 

Other measures that can help decrease your risk of future strokes include regular exercise and cutting out smoking and alcohol consumption.

You can read more prevention tips in our article Can Diet Help Prevent A Stroke?

So there you have it, now you know what a TIA Stroke is. While a TIA Stroke may not be life-threatening, what can happen afterward can be dangerous.

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