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Mini-Strokes May Be More Serious Than Previously Thought

February 16, 2011 by  

Mini-strokes may be more serious than previously thoughtCanadian researchers have concluded a study that suggests transient ischemic attack (TIA) — or a brief period of blood loss to the brain, often referred to as a mini-stroke — has lasting, maybe even permanent, effects on neurons in the brain.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests maintaining a healthy diet of foods low in cholesterol and fat and high in fiber to reduce risk of stroke. It also recommends keeping weight at a reasonable level through exercise and avoiding alcohol and tobacco.

As its name suggests, medical professionals have thought that TIA episodes caused little to no permanent brain damage, but recent test results from a specific mapping procedure suggest otherwise.

Researchers studied 13 TIA patients and compared their test results to those of individuals who have not suffered from a mini-stroke. Clinical evaluation and standard imaging procedures like a CT scan or MRI showed no difference between the brain function of stroke victims and healthy participants. However, when scientists looked at a mapping procedure that used transcranial magnetic stimulation, they saw damage to the affected side of the brain in TIA patients.

Cells on the TIA-affected portion of the brain showed impaired excitatory and inhibitory neurons, making it hard for them to respond to stimuli.

While doctors have known that TIA often precedes a more serious stroke, mild warning signs have often gone ignored by those who experience them. By seeking immediate treatment at the first signals of a stroke — which include numbness or tingling, temporarily impaired vision or inability to speak — individuals may be better able to prevent or minimize serious effects. 

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  • Teresa

    Things that make you say hmmm….whats up w/all the strokes going on lately????? Whats up w/all the media attention on the strokes as well???

    • Anne

      Teresa, It has become prominent, that is unless I have been living in a cave. I just suffered a “mini stroke” in Sept. I was in good health. I had to have my neck artery operated on, my cholesterol was normal. NowI have to take 3 meds and feel like hell. The meds make me weak and I dont like them but as someone said they are keeping me alive, I consider myself lucky. It is Feb. maybe its all about the heart. Take your pick. I considered myself a health freak so what its all about. Now my Dr. has me on the damn pills.

      • Teresa

        I just find it odd that their is SO many people suffering from strokes as of late. Is if from medication or something else???? Has it become soooooo obvious that the media has become so attentive to the obvious????

  • coal miner

    Symptoms vary widely from person to person, depending on the area of the brain involved. The most frequent symptoms include temporary loss of vision (typically amaurosis fugax); difficulty speaking (aphasia); weakness on one side of the body (hemiparesis); and numbness or tingling (paresthesia), usually on one side of the body. Impairment of consciousness is very uncommon. There have been cases of temporary and partial paralysis affecting the face and tongue of the afflicted. The symptoms of a TIA are short lived and usually last a few seconds to a few minutes and most symptoms disappear within 60 minutes. Some individuals may have a lingering feeling that something odd happened to the body. Dizziness, lack of coordination or poor balance are also symptoms related to TIA. Symptoms will vary in severity.

    • Teresa

      ty very much for the insightful info. I have a few questions though, not sure you may be able to answer but is worth a shot. My neurologist has had me on topamax for years now along w/depakote sprinkles for migraines…due from a car accident years ago. Had what you call a “peel down”, a hematoma.
      Anyway, says I get too much blood flow to the brain, the meds shrink the blood vessels and once I stopped taking them and had a seizure????
      I was advised at hosp. to not stop taking the meds. or could repeat the seizures. I was wondering if meds. taken over a long period of time will have any side effects?

  • Donna Crowder

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  • Alaskasense

    I’m only surprised it has taken the medical world this long to realize the effects of TIAs over the long term. My grandmother had them for years before dying, and my mother has been under medical care to prevent TIAs for several years. She just had a “real” stroke four days ago, thankfully a minor one, but different form the TIAs. We saw a slow loss of memory, agility in thinking, ability to process new ideas or complex ones, and eventually loss of memory of her grandchildren and finally her own children before my grandmother died–at the time, no treatment existed. My mother has had few of them compared to her mother at the same age (currently 87), but we see signs of the above consequences, even though generally all symptoms of the TIA itself disappear in a few hours. With the “real” stroke she had last Saturday (according to her doctors), the symptoms were more stroke-like–weakness on one side, drooping mouth, difficulty speaking, balance issues–and they are still presenting. She is improving well, but we never saw persistence of the symptoms of TIAs last more than 24 hours, and typically much less. This time she is very hard to understand when she speaks, and she says it is hard work to get the words she wants–this from a VERY social and talkative woman. So, little doubt in my observation that some portion of the damage from a TIA persists and builds up over time.


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