More than one in three American adults have experienced a ‘mini stroke’, a new study reveals.
A transient ischemic attack (or, TIA) involves a temporary lack of blood flow to the brain, which causes momentary dizziness, confusion, tingling, and numbness in the arms.
Unlike a stroke, it does not kill brain cells – but it is a warning sign of clotting issues in the brain that can lead to a more serious event.
In a new survey by the American Heart Association, 35 percent of respondents admitted to experiencing such symptoms.
But 97 percent of them simply waited for their symptoms to pass rather than calling 911.
The survey, conducted as part of the American Stroke Association’s Together to End Stroke, included 2,040 adults nationwide.
The difference between a TIA and a stroke is that the blockage is transient, or temporary.
A TIA has the same symptoms, but usually lasts a few minutes and up to 24 hours.
The American Stroke Association recommends calling for emergency help immediately, even if symptoms go away.
‘Ignoring any stroke sign could be a deadly mistake,’ said Mitch Elkind, M.D., chair of the American Stroke Association.
‘Only a formal medical diagnosis with brain imaging can determine whether you’re having a TIA or a stroke.
‘If you or someone you know experiences a stroke warning sign that comes on suddenly – whether it goes away or not – call 911 right away to improve chances of an accurate diagnosis, treatment and recovery.’
If a diagnosis shows a clot is blocking blood flow to the brain – ischemic stroke, the most common type – the patient may be eligible for a clot-busting drug.
In some cases, a medical device called a stent retriever is also used to remove the clot, helping to reduce long-term disability.
If the diagnosis is a TIA or a stroke, the patient will need to fully understand their risk factors and work with their doctor on a tailored secondary prevention plan.
These plans may include lifestyle changes, medications to manage known risk factors, and the addition of an antiplatelet medication such as aspirin.
‘Officially, about five million Americans, or 2.3 percent, have had a self-reported, physician-diagnosed TIA, but as this survey suggests, we suspect the true prevalence is higher because many people who experience symptoms consistent with a TIA fail to report it,’ Elkind said.
About 15 percent of strokes are heralded by a TIA. People who have a TIA are significantly more likely to have a stroke within 90 days.
There are two kinds of stroke.
An ischemic stroke – which accounts for 80 percent of strokes – occurs when there is a blockage in a blood vessel that prevents blood from reaching part of the brain.
The more rare, a hemorrhagic stroke, occurs when a blood vessel bursts, flooding part of the brain with too much blood while depriving other areas of adequate blood supply.
It can be the result of an AVM, or arteriovenous malformation (an abnormal cluster of blood vessels), in the brain.
Thirty percent of subarachnoid hemorrhage sufferers die before reaching hospital. A further 25 percent die within 24 hours. And 40 percent of survivors die within a week.
Age, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, family history, and history of a previous stroke or TIA are all risk factors for having a stroke.
Of the roughly three out of four people who survive a stroke, many will have life-long disabilities.
This includes difficulty walking, communicating, eating, and completing everyday tasks or chores.
Both are potentially fatal, and patients require surgery or a drug called tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) within three hours to save them.