Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIA) and Stroke
A stroke occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off, preventing oxygen from reaching brain cells, which causes them to die. When these brain cells die, the victim can lose the abilities associated with those cells. This can include muscle control, memory, paralysis, and other disabling conditions. Stroke is a leading cause of death in the United States, and must be treated immediately for the best possible outcome.
Transient Ischemic Attacks
Transient ischemic attacks can look like strokes based on their symptoms, but are actually a different occurrence. Its symptoms last less than 24 hours (usually for only a few minutes), and while they do not often cause permanent brain damage, they can be a sign that a stroke might be in the victim’s future. Common symptoms include:
- Weakness and numbness in the body (usually on only one side), often located in the face, arms, or legs
- Blindness, double vision
- Loss of balance and/or coordination
- Slurred speech
After you suffer from a transient ischemic attack, you need to start a preventative management plan so that you can best stop the occurrence of future strokes. Your treatment plan can include diet changes (including a decrease in alcohol consumption), an increase in physical activity, and medications to treat high blood pressure and high cholesterol (among other conditions).
Ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot forms that prevents blood from reaching the brain. This is the more common type of stroke, and has two-subtypes: embolic and thrombotic. Embolic strokes occur when a clot forms somewhere in the body other than near the brain, and then travels through blood vessels where it eventually blocks a smaller vessel near the brain. In thrombotic stroke, the clot is formed in an artery adjacent to the brain, blocking the brain’s bloody supply.
Hemorrhagic stroke occurs due to a brain aneurysm burst or blood vessel leak. This causes blood to seep into the brain, creating pressure that damages brain tissue. It is less common than an ischemic stroke (only about 15% of strokes are classified as hemorrhagic), but is more likely to result in death. There are two types of hemorrhagic stroke: intracerebral hemorrhage and subarachnoid hemorrhage. Intracerebral hemorrhages occur inside your brain, while subarachnoid hemorrhages occur between the brain and the tissues that surround the brain.
Stroke prevention has progressed incredibly far in recent years. Modern medicine has identified several risk factors, many of them treatable, which can lower your chance of having a stroke. These include:
- Cigarette smoking
- High blood pressure
- Lack of physical activity
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
- Atrial fibrillation
- Excessive alcohol consumption
However, not all risk factors are treatable. These include family history, age, and previous medical history. It is best to discuss with your doctor whether you are at high risk for a stroke, and what you can do to lower this risk.