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What to Expect After a Mini-Stroke

A transient ischemic attack (TIA), often referred to as a mini-stroke, happens when a temporary interruption of blood flow to the brain is caused by a blood clot or narrowed blood vessels. TIAs last only a few minutes and, unlike full strokes, usually do not cause permanent brain damage or have long-term effects.

However, if you’ve had a TIA, it’s very important to take recovery seriously and make lifestyle changes to prevent another stroke in the future. Consider your TIA a warning, because about 1 in 3 people who have a TIA will eventually have another stroke.

Early Recognition is Crucial

Since the symptoms of a TIA can go away after only a few minutes, it might be challenging to know if you are having one. If you have any of the following symptoms that usually go away in less than hour, seek emergency medical treatment immediately to prevent a stroke: 

  • Sudden paralysis, weakness, drooping, or numbness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Vision changes in one or both eyes 
  • Dizziness 
  • Loss of balance or coordination
  • Slurred speech 
  • Inability to speak or understand speech

“It’s extremely important to identify symptoms of a TIA because it is considered a warning sign of an impending ischemic stroke, with the highest risk of a stroke within the next few days following a TIA,” says Veronica Moreno-Gomez, MD, a neurology specialist at University of Utah Health. “Prompt medical evaluation to identify its cause and address underlying risk factors are essential to prevent future strokes and potential disability.”

Risk factors can increase your chances of experiencing a TIA. Knowing if you have any of the following risk factors and managing them accordingly can help reduce your risk of stroke: 

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol 
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Obesity and physical inactivity 

“Some patients may experience progression of their risk factors or a new onset of other medical issues that, if detected and treated on time, reduce the risk of having more TIAs or strokes,” Moreno-Gomez says.

Recovery and Prevention

While recovery from a TIA may not be as intensive as full-blown strokes, it’s still important to listen to your doctor and take your recovery seriously. The goal of treatment for a TIA is to prevent another, potentially larger stroke.

Your recovery process will vary based on your individual circumstances, but in general, your recovery will include:

  • Controlling risk factors. If you have any major TIA risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, be sure to adhere to any treatment plans prescribed by your doctor to keep them under control.
  • Exercising regularly. Regular physical activity lowers the risk of another stroke by promoting a healthy weight, improving cardiovascular health, and reducing blood pressure. 
  • Ditching tobacco. Smoking cigarettes increases the risk of TIA or stroke. It increases blood pressure, damages blood vessels, and can contribute to blood clots.
  • Finding support. After suffering a TIA, it’s normal to feel scared or worried about a future one. Family members, friends, support groups, or a mental health professional can help you cope. 
  • Regular check-ups. You will have several follow-up appointments with your doctor to ensure your recovery is going well.

“Ongoing monitoring and follow-up care are crucial to TIA management and stroke prevention,” Moreno-Gomez says. “Follow-up appointments allow physicians to assess medication adherence and effectiveness and provide education, counseling, and community resources to the patient.”

So, if you think you’ve had or are having a TIA, seek medical treatment immediately and be prepared for lifestyle changes that will help avoid another event in the future.