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What brings on a mini stroke?

Stroke — causes, signs and symptoms

A stroke is a medical emergency. It happens when the blood flow to part of your brain is cut off. This can cause your brain cells to become damaged or die. If you think you or anyone else may be having a stroke, call 999 immediately.

What is a stroke?

If the blood flow to the brain is interrupted, brain cells can get damaged because they aren’t getting the oxygen supply they need. A stroke can affect you in different ways, depending on which part of the brain hasn’t received the blood supply. This can affect your speech, as well as the way you think and move.

Signs of a stroke

Act F.A.S.T to recognise the signs:

  • Facial weakness – can they smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?
  • Arm weakness – can they raise both arms?
  • Speech problems – can they speak clearly and can they understand what you’re saying?
  • Time – it’s time to call 999 immediately if you see any of these symptoms.

It’s called F.A.S.T because timing is critical if you’re having a stroke. You could lose millions of nerve cells for every minute without treatment. The longer you wait, the less chance of speech, movement and abilities being returned to what they were. Acting F.A.S.T really is lifesaving. Read more here.

Types of stroke:

  • Ischaemic strokes happen when an artery supplying blood to your brain is blocked by a blood clot.
  • Haemorrhagic strokes happen when a blood vessel ruptures (or bursts), causing a bleed in the brain. This means less blood gets to the surrounding brain cells causing them to die.
  • Mini-strokes, or transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs), happen when there’s an interruption in blood flow to part of the brain for a short time causing symptoms, such as temporary speech loss. TIA’s usually resolve after a few seconds or minutes.

If you think someone is having any of these symptoms you should call 999 immediately.

Should I still call 999 or go to hospital if I’m worried about my health?

It’s essential to dial 999 if you have symptoms that could be a stroke.

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Don’t delay because you think hospitals are too busy – the NHS still has systems in place to treat people who need urgent stroke treatment. If you delay, you are more likely to suffer serious damage and more likely to need intensive care and to spend longer in hospital.

What increases my chance of having a stroke?

A risk factor increases your chance of developing a condition. Risk factors for a stroke are similar to those for heart diseases, such as angina or heart attacks.

There are many things you can do to help lower your chances of a stroke:

  • eat healthily
  • be physically active
  • keep to a healthy weight and lose weight if necessary
  • don’t smoke
  • cut down on alcohol
  • control high blood pressure
  • control high cholesterol
  • control blood sugar levels (if you have diabetes).

If you have an abnormal heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation (AF) your risk of stroke is increased. This is because AF increases the risk of a blood clot forming inside the top chambers of your heart. If this happens, it can travel to your brain and block the blood flow to your brain.

  • Find out more about treating atrial fibrillation.

Are you finding it hard to get medical help?

We know that many of you are experiencing delays to treatment at this time, or have questions and concerns about getting medical help. We’ve created this set of information to help you with these issues.

If you are having emergency heart attack symptoms, do not wait for an appointment and call 999 immediately.

  • Where to get medical help if your appointment is delayed or cancelled
  • Appointment and surgery delays
  • When do you still need to get medical help?
  • Making the most of phone and video appointments

How is a stroke treated in hospital?

As soon as possible, you’ll be taken for a brain scan. If you’ve had a stroke, you’ll be closely monitored and depending on the type of stroke you may be given clot-busting medication (known as thrombolysis). The amount of time you stay in hospital depends on the type and severity of your stroke, your treatment, your general health and how quickly you recover.

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It’s common to feel anxious, angry and upset after having a stroke. Talk to your healthcare professionals and let them know if you want them to repeat anything. You can also ask for help and if you do they will discuss with you and your family if they feel think you’ll need support when you go home.

  • The Stroke Association has more detailed information on what happens to people with a stroke in hospital, including tests and treatment.

The Ticker Tapes Podcast

Annette Dancer suffered a life-changing stroke at the age of 61. Hear her story and other real experiences from people living with heart and circulatory disease.

What will my recovery from stroke be like?

A stroke affects people in different ways. You’re likely to see the most improvement in the first few weeks of your recovery, usually while you’re still in hospital. However, it can take months or sometimes years.

Your rehabilitation will begin in hospital where specialists, such as nurses, physiotherapists and occupational therapists will discuss what help you’ll need. The aim of rehabilitation is to help return you as close as possible to how you were before the stroke. They also support you to live as independently as you can.

If you’ve had a stroke, you may be at risk of developing vascular dementia. This happens when a stroke damages part of your brain, leading to symptoms such as concentration problems and personality changes. If you have any concerns you should speak to your GP.

Stroke is sudden and can be devastating, but many people continue to improve and there is help and support available.

  • Watch our video to hear Mark and Paul talking about life after a stroke.
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Stroke — your quick guide

This short illustrated leaflet explains the symptoms, causes and types of stroke. It tells you what you might expect from your recovery and explains how stroke and coronary heart disease are linked.It’s suitable for you if you’ve had a stroke or have been told you are at risk of having one.

Stroke - your quick guide

Caring for someone who’s had a stroke

You may be looking after someone because they’ve had a stroke. The support they’ll need depends on the impact of the stroke and their recovery. If you’re a carer, it’s just as important to look after your own health and wellbeing. You might need practical or emotional support too.

  • Order or download our Caring for someone booklet to find out more.
  • Read more about caring for someone with heart and circulatory disease.

Heart Helpline & other support:

  • Order our Stroke quick guide.
  • Call our Heart Helpline on 0300 330 3311 between Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
  • Contact the Stroke Association on 0303 3033 100
  • Contact the Carers Direct Helpline on 0300 123 1053.
  • Contact Carers Trust on 0844 800 4361.
  • Contact Carers UK on 0808 808 7777.
  • Speak to others who have had a stroke in our HealthUnlocked online community.
  • Visit the NHS Choices Stroke website.
  • Sign up to our Heart Matters magazine and online information packed with health and lifestyle advice.

Related information

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Tests for heart and circulatory conditions

Tests are used to diagnose a heart condition or to see how healthy your heart is. Find out what to expect from some of the most common tests.

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Treatments for heart and circulatory conditions

You may be having planned or emergency treatment. We explain what to expect, how it will help and what will happen afterwards.

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Being diagnosed, or living with a heart or circulatory condition can be overwhelming, but we’re here to help.

Page last reviewed: November 2019

Next review due: November 2021

What brings on a mini stroke?

Woman holding her forehead after suffering a ministroke outside

July 14, 2021

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A stoke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted, leading to neurologic symptoms based on the area of the brain that was impacted. A ministroke, also known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA), is when a brief lack of blood flow occurs but is restored before there is permanent damage to brain tissue. It’s important you seek medical attention if you’ve suffered a TIA, as it could be an early sign of a future stroke. In fact, one in three people who experience TIAs go on to suffer more serious strokes within 48 hours, and according to the American Stroke Association, 10-15 percent of people who have experienced a TIA will have a major stroke within three months. This is a crucial information to remember.

Usually brief, TIA symptoms can easily fly under the radar, going completely unnoticed or thought of simply as passing fatigue or dizziness, so it’s critically important to be able to recognize its symptoms as they occur.

Let’s look deeper into TIAs to understand their causes, risk factors, and the ministroke symptoms and warning signs you may be missing.

What Causes Ministrokes?

There are a few critical causes of ministrokes, number one being blood clots. While anyone can suffer from one, if you’re someone who has hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, heart disease, or diabetes, you also run a higher risk of experiencing a TIA. Additionally, risk for TIA’s tends to increase with age.

«There’s a misconception that a transient ischemic attack can only occur in the elderly, but that’s a myth,» says Anita Mehta, DO, a neurologist at Summit Health. “TIAs and strokes can affect anyone.” In 2009, 34 percent of people hospitalized for strokes were under the age of 65.»

Ministroke Symptoms

Ministroke symptoms usually last only a few minutes. However, this doesn’t mean that someone can’t experience ministroke symptoms for longer. In some cases, symptoms can last 24 hours.

Common TIA symptoms include:

  • Dizziness or loss of balance
  • Temporary weakness or numbness in one side of the body, often the arm or face
  • Trouble with speaking and speech
  • Problems with vision or trouble seeing out of one eye
  • Sudden headaches
  • Confusion or difficulty understanding
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If you experience any of these symptoms, you should seek medical attention as quickly as possible. While no one wants to suffer a ministroke, it serves as a warning sign and a chance to prevent future strokes. Remember, up to 15 percent of individuals who experience a TIA, experience a full stroke within 90 days.

Stroke Symptoms

A helpful way to recognize the signs of a stroke or TIA is by using the American Stroke Association’s acronym, FAST:

  • F – Face drooping
  • A – Arm weakness
  • S – Speech difficulty
  • T – Time to call 911

Ministroke Treatment

If you are diagnosed with a ministroke, that are treatments that can help reduce risk for S future stroke such as:

  • Antiplatelet drugs
  • Anticoagulants, which are blood thinners
  • Lifestyle changes to improve cardiovascular health
  • Rarely, surgery may be needed to repair anatomic defects that increase risk for blood clots

Ministroke Prevention

Regardless of our age and medical conditions, we can all reduce our risk for ministrokes by improving our overall cardiovascular health. Here are some things you can do:

  • Avoid smoking. If you are an active tobacco user speak to your physician about resources to help you quit
  • Eat a healthy diet, including lots of fruits and vegetables
  • Exercise regularly
  • Try to maintain a healthy weight

Final Thoughts on TIAs and Ministrokes

  • As a prevention measure against full strokes, it is important to understand the warning signs, risk factors, and symptoms of a ministroke. Get regular check-ups so that you know your blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels. And talk to your doctor if you think you’ve experienced any of the associated symptoms.

Summit Health’s neurology department is trained and experienced to diagnose and treat common neurological disorders, including strokes. If you think you may be at risk, or if you want to talk to a professional about your neurological health, book an appointment with any of our neurologists today.

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