If You Have These Short-Lived Symptoms, You May Soon Have a Stroke
These symptoms pass quickly, but they're serious warning signs for a stroke.
In the U.S., nearly 610,000 people have their first stroke every year, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As both a leading cause of long-term disability and death, it's important to know all of the warning signs. There are a number of major stroke signs to be aware of, but experts say a few minor symptoms are equally important, not to mention easier to miss. Because these symptoms tend to pass fairly quickly, many people ignore them, but that's not a mistake you want to make. Read on to learn which short-lived symptoms could signal a stroke on the horizon.
A transient ischemic attack produces stroke-like symptoms that go away after a few minutes.
If you have stroke-like symptoms that only last for a few minutes, you've likely experienced a transient ischemic attack (TIA), according to the CDC. This occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked temporarily, often because of a blood clot.
Huma Sheikh, MD, a board-certified neurologist specializing in migraine and stroke, says most TIA symptoms will only last for five or 10 minutes, and they rarely ever last longer than an hour. Common signs of a TIA include numbness or weakness on one side of the body, trouble speaking or slurred speech, and trouble walking. "These are all the same symptoms as a stroke—the only difference is that with a TIA, the symptoms will eventually fully resolve," Sheikh explains.
Having a TIA means you could have an actual stroke soon.
Vipindas Chengat, MD, an internal medicine, hospitalist, and teaching medical faculty member at Mountain View hospital in Las Vegas, Nevada, says that people who experience a TIA often ignore it because their symptoms go away. "It's very important to understand that a TIA is really a warning sign as they are mini-strokes," he says. According to the CDC, a TIA is a "warning sign of a future stroke."
About 30 percent of those who have a mini-stroke will end up having a regular stroke at some point in the future, says Ahmed Zayed, MD, a licensed doctor and editor at Calisthenics-gear. In about 50 percent of these cases, patients will experience a stroke within the first year following their TIA. But Zayed notes that it does take longer for some patients to experience a stroke down the line.
If you think you've had a TIA, you should seek medical care immediately.
The CDC says that a TIA is a "medical emergency, just like a major stroke," and both require emergency care—especially since there's no way to know at first if you're experiencing symptoms from a TIA or a stroke. The only way to definitely tell if you've had either is imaging, says Sheikh.
If it was a mini-stroke, taking appropriate medical actions after can reduce your chances of having a stroke in the future, according to Zayed. "Since it usually takes quite a while before the patient has a stroke, they generally have enough time to make a real difference in their current lifestyle," he explains.
RELATED: For more health advice delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Treating a TIA can significantly lower your chances of having a major stroke.
Lifestyle changes and medication treatments after a mini-stroke appear important in lowering the potential for a future stroke. A 2016 study published in The Lancet found that promptly treating a TIA could reduce someone's risk of having a fatal or disabling stroke by as much as 80 percent. The Oxford researchers looked at data for around 16,000 patients and found that people treated with aspirin after a TIA were significantly less likely to have a stroke or—if they did end up having one—a severe stroke.
"Our findings confirm the effectiveness of urgent treatment after TIA and minor stroke, and show that aspirin is the most important component. Immediate treatment with aspirin can substantially reduce the risk and severity of early recurrent stroke," lead researcher and stroke expert Peter Rothwell, MD, said in a statement at the time.