A stroke occurs when the blood flow to the brain is interrupted or cut-off. When this happens, the affected area of the brain does not receive the oxygen and nutrients that it needs. A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is sometimes referred to as a “mini-stroke” or a “warning stroke”. Like a stroke, a TIA is caused by the formation of a blood clot that interrupts or cuts off blood flow to the brain. The difference between a TIA and a stroke is that in a TIA, the interruption in blood flow is only temporary and there is usually no permanent injury to the brain. A TIA lasts about a minute on average, and usually no longer than five minutes.
The symptoms of a TIA can include sudden onset of weakness, numbness, or paralysis in a body part, slurred speech, blurred vision, loss of vision, and loss of coordination. The most common cause of a TIA is the buildup of cholesterol in the arteries, which causes a small blood clot. TIA’s are called “warning strokes” because one in three people who experience a TIA will later experience a stroke. If you believe that you are having a TIA, you should seek medical help immediately. If you have had a TIA, there are steps that you can take to lower your risk of stroke. These steps include: working to lower cholesterol levels, quitting smoking, engaging in regular physical activity, improving nutrition, limiting alcohol intake, and stopping any illicit drug use. Support groups are available for more resources and information.