What’s a Mini Stroke?

Mini strokes have been in the headlines lately. But what is a mini stroke?

The term “mini stroke” might make it seem as though a mild stroke is what’s happening. In fact, “mini stroke” refers to a transient ischemic attack (TIA), which can be fairly serious. 

Like a stroke, a TIA happens when a clot or bleed blocks blood flow to the brain. A TIA, or mini stroke, is a temporary blockage. 

About one-third of people who experience a mini stroke will go on to have a major stroke.

Symptoms of a mini stroke

The symptoms of a TIA are the same as signs of a stroke, including slurred speech, weakness or numbness especially on one side of the body, trouble seeing especially in one eye, and a loss of balance or coordination.

The acronym that goes with strokes is FAST:

  • Face — does your face droop?
  • Arms — raise both arms and see if one drifts down.
  • Speech — do you have trouble speaking?
  • Time — seek treatment immediately.

That acronym is also intended to remind you that you should act fast. You should not wait and see whether your symptoms go away. Assume the stroke is a major stroke.

Treatment of a mini stroke

Since your healthcare provider will not know whether you are having a stroke or a TIA, the initial treatment is likely to be the same. You should call 911 and will probably be seen in an emergency room.

About half of people who have a mini stroke don’t realize that they have had a TIA, and may not seek medical treatment. Even if you feel better soon, you should talk with your doctor if you have had any symptoms of a stroke, even if the symptoms have ceased.

You may have a CT scan or MRI to look for damage.

If you’ve had a mini stroke, your doctor will recommend lifestyle changes and possibly medications to reduce your chances of having a major stroke.

Risk factors for stroke:

  • obesity
  • a sedentary lifestyle
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • diabetes
  • being over 60
  • smoking
  • heart disease
  • atrial fibrillation
  • a family history of stroke

There is also a correlation between marijuana and other drug use and stroke risk.

Some of these factors are not under your control, but your doctor will probably recommend that you stop smoking (if you smoke), exercise regularly, treat high blood pressure or diabetes if you have these conditions, and make sure to get five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.