Better Me

What is a “Mini-Stroke"?

When it comes to matters of the brain, “mini” rarely feels like the right word. Any risk of brain damage can feel very intimidating. Of course, our brains are arguably the most important organ in our body, controlling everything that we are physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. So, it’s only natural that we take any level of stroke seriously, “mini” or not.

Full stroke vs. mini stroke

A stroke is what happens when oxygen-rich blood is blocked from the brain. Within minutes, areas of brain tissue can begin to die and as time goes on, more of the brain can deteriorate. Full strokes often cause permanent damage, the impacts of which can vary from case to case.

A mini stroke, or transient ischemic attack (TIA), will look and feel just like a full stroke at first. In fact, there is no way to know right away if you are experiencing a TIA  or stroke. The difference in a mini stroke is that the brain blockage or clot resolves itself within 24 hours, with symptoms of a TIA lasting no more than a few minutes. To learn more, we spoke to Inhyup Kim, MD, a neurologist with Banner Brain & Spine.

“We diagnose transient ischemic attacks retroactively,” said Dr. Kim. “In these cases, the blockage, often a blood clot, dissolves or dislodges in a way that restores blood flow and allows oxygen to once again flow to the brain. These patients are very lucky and do not show noticeable long-term stroke symptoms."

What does a mini stroke mean for you?

Although a mini stroke doesn’t result in lasting issues, they are a warning sign and often indicate a full stroke isn’t too far in the future. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than a third of people who have a TIA and don’t get treatment have a major stroke within one year. As many as 10% to 15% of people will have a major stroke within three months of a TIA. For this reason, it is very important that you understand when you’ve experienced a mini stroke and that you see a doctor right away to begin a treatment plan.

Recognizing a transient ischemic attack

In the moment, recognizing a stroke can be difficult. The symptoms are disorienting and may slow down your ability to react. F.A.S.T. is a simple acronym that will help you and those around you recognize the signs and symptoms when they occur. If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of a stroke, call 911 immediately. Mini or not, time is of the essence when it comes to treating a stroke. Quick action could be all the difference in preventing unnecessary brain damage.

Shrink your risk

Dr. Kim explained that all ischemic strokes are rooted in the same risk factors. Obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, atrial fibrillation, smoking, drug abuse and many others are all linked to an increased likelihood to experience a mini- or full-scale stroke. If you have any of these risk factors, visit our Stroke Risk Profiler to evaluate your risk for stroke and TIAs and set up a visit with your doctor to discuss how you can lower your chances of a stroke.

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