Simple lifestyle changes can greatly reduce your risk and provide other health benefits.
You may have heard the term “mini-stroke.” The temporary symptoms are similar to a stroke – weakness or numbness in the face, slurred or garbled speech, blindness or double vision or loss of balance and coordination.
Don’t let the name fool you. Your mini-stroke may be a clear warning of a potential, more damaging stroke on the near horizon. Also, a mini-stroke is still a stroke requiring immediate medical care. If you or someone you are with is experiencing stroke-like symptoms, call 911 immediately or head to the nearest Emergency Department.
A mini-stroke is a more common name given to Transient Ischemic Attack, or TIA. Symptoms are similar to a stroke – weakness or numbness in the face, slurred or garbled speech, blindness or double vision, or loss of balance and coordination. They typically last 5 minutes or less, but could remain for up to 24 hours in rare cases.
The greatest risk factor of having a stroke is having a prior TIA. Stroke claims the life of one US adult every 4 minutes. It’s the leading cause of long-term disability in the nation. Up to 87 percent of strokes in the US are ischemic, or strokes caused by an arterial obstruction that blocks blood flow to the brain. The blockage is temporary and there is no permanent damage with a TIA.
Stroke, the leading cause of long-term disability in the nation, claims the life of one US adult every 4 minutes. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control notes 87 percent of strokes in the US are ischemic, or strokes caused by an arterial obstruction that blocks blood flow to the brain. The blockage is temporary and there is no permanent damage with a TIA.
Blockage could be a buildup of plaque, or cholesterol-containing fatty deposits in an artery. Plaque reduces blood flow through the artery or causes a clot to form. TIAs also can be caused by a blood clot from somewhere else in your body, the heart in most instances, that moves to an artery supplying blood to your brain.
So, that brings up the obvious question: How can I keep myself safe? Some risk factors you can control; some you can’t. Risk factors that are out of your control include family history, age, gender, a prior TIA and Sickle Cell Disease.
Risk factors you can control:
- Hypertension, or high blood pressure. Age, diabetes and other factors may impact your optimal blood pressure. Typically, you want to keep it below 140/90.
- High cholesterol. Put down the taco. Skip the burger tonight. Instead, reach for foods low in cholesterol and fats, both saturated and trans fat. Diet alone may not do it. In that case, your provider can help you determine which cholesterol-lowering prescription is right for you.
- Cardiovascular disease. Your provider can help you manage a heart defect, abnormal heart rhythm or a heart defect.
- Excess weight. Those extra pounds, primarily in the abdomen, increase stroke risk for both men and women. It may be what you eat. It may not be what, but how much. Talk to your provider about options to help you achieve a healthier weight.
- Diabetes can cause fatty deposits that narrow your arteries (atherosclerosis). Your provider may have suggestions to help you offset your overall risk.
- Tobacco, smokeless tobacco and vape use. Each carry a noted risk of blood clots, increased blood pressure and atherosclerosis. Consider quitting. Ask your provider about tools and other resources in your community to help you leave the habit behind.
- Physical inactivity. Thirty minutes a day is all it takes to reduce this risk factor. Walk around the block. Speed is not the focus here. Time is. You don’t have to go alone. Take your pet for a stroll – they’ll thank you for it, and you get the benefit of reduced risk.
- Heavy drinking. Limit yourself to two drinks a day for men, one for women. Take the time to savor that microbrew or glass of wine. There are health benefits to drinking in moderation; but, like with most things in life, moderation is the key.