Don’t ignore a “mini-stroke”

When I was about 9 years old, on Easter Sunday, my grandmother suffered a transient ischemic attack, commonly called a mini-stroke, while walking from the car to the house to watch her grandchildren hunt Easter eggs. It was scary to watch the ambulance come to the house and take her away on a day that was supposed to be for family celebration.

I wasn’t old enough then to understand the risk factors or symptoms of a stroke.  As an adult, I’ve become more aware of the risk factors I can control to live a healthy lifestyle and reduce my risk and my family’s risk of stroke. I’ve learned the importance of understanding the symptoms and how to identify when a family member may be having a stroke.

A transient ischemic attack (TIA), or mini-stroke, causes stroke symptoms that last less than 24 hours before disappearing. TIA symptoms are basically the same as those of a stroke and include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination

According to the National Stroke Association, up to 40 percent of people who have experienced a mini-stroke will later have an actual stroke. Luckily for my family, my grandmother never suffered from a stroke. However, I think the TIA experience made my family more aware of stroke symptoms and the need to move forward with the treatment and management of her TIA.

When a person experiences a TIA, the goal is to prevent a future stroke. Management can include medications to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol or heart disease; diet changes;  exercise; and physical therapy.

May is National Stroke Awareness Month and a great time for men and women to assess their risk for a stroke or TIA.

Not sure if you’re at risk? Use the TIA risk calculator offered by the National Stroke Association or Norton Healthcare’s Stroke Risk Scorecard to help determine your risk level. Once you know your risk, it is important to understand what stroke risk factors you can control and to learn the symptoms of a stroke.