Don’t Ignore the Symptoms of a Mini-Stroke!

Don’t Ignore the Sympto…

At the best of times, busy adults have a tendency to shrug off irritating symptoms that feel minor or go away quickly. Often, that’s not a problem: the stomach pain is indigestion, not cancer, or the cough is just a momentary irritation of the throat. But sometimes, seemingly minor symptoms can be a warning of something far more serious to come. That’s often the case with transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), also known as mini-strokes.

And, of course, these are not the best of times. As of this writing, we are in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. Concerns about the virus’ contagion and serious effect on older people has made many people reluctant to leave the house, especially to seek medical treatment at a hospital where they might be exposed to greater risk of infection.

Certainly, you should exercise caution in deciding when and where to go out these days. But if you ignore the symptoms of a mini-stroke, you could be trading the possibility of one problem (COVID-19) for a greater risk of another serious problem (a major stroke).

Let’s take a look at the risk factors for, and symptoms of, mini-stroke, and what to do if you or a loved one experience them.

Risk Factors for Mini-Stroke

The risk factors for a mini-stroke are similar to those for ischemic strokes in general. High blood pressure (hypertension), Type 2 diabetes, and obesity are all risk factors for TIAs. Some medications, like hormone replacement therapy in menopause also contribute to the risk. Depression and significant alcohol consumption raise the risk of TIAs as well.

It is impossible to eliminate risk of mini-stroke, but because many of the risk factors are associated with lifestyle, it is possible to manage that risk with healthy diet, exercise, and other lifestyle choices.

Symptoms of a Mini-Stroke

Here’s what happens during a stroke: blood flow to part of the brain is impaired, causing the death of some brain cells. The location of the damage determines the type of damage: impaired speech, loss of muscle control, memory issues.

What is the difference between a stroke and a TIA? Essentially, how long the event lasts. So if you are familiar with stroke symptoms, you will not be surprised to learn that the symptoms of a mini-stroke include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body
  • Loss of balance
  • Loss of coordination
  • Difficulty walking
  • Double vision
  • Problems seeing out of one or both eyes

Interestingly, there are some symptoms that are more common in women than men, and vice versa, though both women and men might experience them. Women more commonly experience symptoms like hiccups, nausea, chest pain, heart palpitations, weakness, agitation, and shortness of breath. Symptoms like facial droop or difficulty speaking or understanding speech are more common in men.

If you or a loved one experience any of the symptoms above, resist the urge to decide everything is all right just because the problem went away quickly.

If you or a loved one experience any of the symptoms above, resist the urge to decide everything is all right just because the problem went away quickly.

The acronym F.A.S.T. is a useful tool for identifying stroke symptoms. It stands for:

  • Face: Ask the person to smile and see if one side of their face droops.
  • Arms: Ask the person to lift their arms. Can they lift both sides equally high?
  • Speech: Is the person’s speech slurred or unintelligible?
  • Time: Time is of the essence. The sooner a person is evaluated in a medical setting and treated, the better the outcome is likely to be.

What to Do in the Event of a TIA

Somewhere around a quarter of people will go on to have an ischemic stroke following a TIA or mini-stroke. Sometimes, the stroke will occur within a few days or weeks. About 1 in 10 people who suffer an ischemic stroke recover completely, with no remaining deficits. That means that around 90% have some long-lasting or permanent impairment, or will die from the stroke.

It is not always possible to prevent a stroke, of course, and experiencing a TIA does not always mean that an ischemic stroke is on the horizon. But because a TIA often precedes a stroke, and because damage from a mini-stroke or stroke tends to be less the sooner the patient is treated, you should act promptly to get help in the event of a mini-stroke. Contact your doctor immediately, and seek care in an emergency department if necessary.

As an elder law firm, we care about the health of our older clients. A long life is good. A healthy one is better. If you have any questions about this article, or how we can help you with your legal needs, we invite you to contact our law office.

Categories: Elder Law

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