Transient Ischemic Attacks – What You Should Know


A Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) or a mini-stroke is caused by a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain due to a clot lodged in the artery. A mini-stoke has similar symptoms of an ischemic attack, the most common type of stroke. The main difference is TIA symptoms last for a few minutes to hours until the clot dissolves or dislodges on its own.

A stroke causes permanent damage to the brain because blood and oxygen flow are cut off for a longer time. It is a scary occurrence for anyone who experienced TIA since it may serve as a major warning sign of a full-blown stroke to come.

Seeking medical attention right away can help distinguish a mini-stroke from a real ischemic attack. TIA is a treatable condition and may require post-stroke rehabilitative care. Medical treatment and lifestyle adjustments can prevent TIA recurrence and reduce the risk of a stroke.

Causes of Transient Ischemic Attack

A blood clot that clogs the artery leading to the brain is the leading cause of a mini-stroke. TIA is also commonly caused by atherosclerosis or a buildup of plaques in the arteries. These plaques come from fatty deposits of cholesterol in the body. They can cause a clot to develop and float around in the body or an artery. It can reduce blood flow or get clogged in the artery. TIA occurs when the clot blocks blood and oxygen flow to the brain.

Symptoms of Transient Ischemic Attack

• Numbness, weakness, or paralysis in one side of the body, the face, arm or legs

• Sudden, severe headache of unknown cause

• Slurred speech

• Confusion

• Double vision or blindness in one or both eyes

• Loss of balance

• Lack of physical coordination

• Dizziness or passing out

Risk Factors of TIA

Some of the risk factors of TIA can be managed to prevent full stroke. Others cannot be changed. They include:

• Genetics

• Age

• Gender

• Race

• Previous transient ischemic attack

• Sickle cell disease

Reducing the Risk of TIA and Stroke

Certain health conditions and lifestyle choices increase the risk of getting TIA and stroke. Some 1 in 3 people go on to have a stroke after having a min-stroke. However, if the following risk factors are managed well, i.e. risk avoidance and preventative care, it can reduce the chance of a stroke. People who have two or more risk factors are typically at a greater risk.

Health Conditions:

• High cholesterol

• High blood pressure

• Diabetes

• Cardiovascular disease

• Peripheral artery disease

• Carotid artery disease

• Obesity

• Elevated levels of homocysteine

Lifestyle Choices:

• Poor nutrition

• Smoking tobacco

• Alcoholism

• Use of illicit drugs

• Physical inactivity

• Use of birth control pills

Treatment for Transient Ischemic Attack

If you suspect from the symptoms you suffered a TIA, you should seek medical attention immediately. Your doctor may perform various tests including CT scans, MRI’s, and MRA’s if necessary to make a diagnosis. Treatment depends on the type, severity, cause, and location of the TIA.

Medication: Anti-platelet drugs or anti-coagulant medication may be prescribed to prevent clotting in the body. Thrombolytic therapy using a thrombolytic agent may be used to dissolve blood clots blocking blood flow to the brain. It is especially useful for an ongoing stroke. Medication may also be prescribed to treat underlying health conditions associated with TIA and stroke.

Surgery: A carotid endarterectomy may be required to unclog the carotid artery in the neck. This surgical procedure is done to remove the plaques or fatty deposits to prevent another TIA or a stroke.

Angioplasty: Carotid angioplasty, or stenting, may be necessary for some patients. This surgical procedure is done to place a small wire tube or stent into the clogged artery to keep it open.

Lifestyle Changes: Eating healthier, exercising, stress management, and kicking certain habits, such as smoking cigarettes, abusing illicit drugs, or drinking excessive alcohol, can help reduce the chance of TIA or a stroke.

Getting Professional Help

Transient ischemic attack can happen to anyone. It is preventable to some extent and is treatable. Perhaps the most important thing you need to know are the symptoms and to call 911 to avoid medical complications. It is especially important to do so since TIA and stroke have some similar symptoms.

Many times, a person may require post-stroke rehabilitation which can be done in a residential or outpatient setting. Maplewood of Sauk Prairie Health & Rehabilitation Center, in Sauk City, WI, can provide stroke rehabilitative care for your or your loved one in a compassionate environment.

Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy are part of their post-stroke treatment programs which are managed by a professional and qualified medical staff. These services are offered in an inpatient or outpatient environment, depending on the client’s needs. Their goal is returning you or your loved one to an active life by working to reduce the challenges posed by a TIA or stroke.


American Heart Association/American Stroke Association:



Mayo Clinic:


Life Following a Stroke

strokeBecause strokes affect your brain, one of the most complex parts of your body, no two people have exactly the same effects after a stroke. Strokes may impede your ability to walk, talk, eat, interact with others, or some combination of those activities.

Strokes alter basic daily functioning, which can make returning to normal life after a stroke frustrating and difficult. Every person will go through a different recovery process, and some will recover more completely than others. However, we’ve listed a few common steps that stroke survivors and their loved ones may take after a stroke.

Identifying the Challenges
Some challenges that come with a stroke may be obvious to everyone, such as losing the ability to walk. Other challenges, however, may be more difficult to spot and more emotionally charged for family members. Some people experience personality changes after a stroke, like becoming more careless and forgetful or more irritable and depressed. These emotional challenges can cause strains in their relationships, but can become easier to deal with when loved ones recognize that they are results of the stroke. Talking to your doctor or another professional may help you identify these types of challenges.

Looking for Support
Over 7 million Americans survive strokes every year, so if you or a loved one has experienced a stroke, you are not alone. Everyone has different experiences after their stroke, but finding support from others who are going through something similar can be helpful for stroke survivors and their loved ones. Other people may be able to offer advice, resources, or simply a sympathetic ear when it’s needed. Many people connect to stroke support groups for help and friendship.

Finding Ways to Overcome
While some challenges after a stroke can be overcome, others may remain with you for the rest of your life. Finding ways to cope with your new challenges can be frustrating and overwhelming, but there are many resources available to help you. In addition to the expertise offered by physical therapists, occupational therapists, and other professionals, there are plenty of resources online and in communities. For example, the Stroke Association keeps a library of daily living tips with ideas for coping with daily challenges faced by stroke survivors.

Seeking Stroke Rehabilitation
Many stroke survivors find that rehabilitation is the most important and helpful part of their recovery. Rehabilitation can offer help in identifying challenges, emotional support, and professional expertise in coping with new challenges.

Rehabilitation after a stroke is different for every person, because every stroke survivor has different challenges. Rehabilitation may help with self-care skills like feeding and dressing, mobility skills like walking or using a wheelchair, communication skills like speaking, cognitive skills such as problem solving or remembering, and social skills for interacting with others and dealing with emotions. It sometimes also involves more advanced skills, like re-learning how to drive or vocational training so that you can return to work.

Rehabilitation takes place in a variety of settings, from long-term in-patient care facilities to outpatient facilities you may visit a few times a week. It’s also conducted by a wide variety of professionals, including nurses, physical or occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, social workers, and audiologists.

Where to Find Rehabilitation
Many different types of facilities offer rehabilitation for strokes, including Maplewood of Sauk Prairie. Maplewood has many highly competent, caring staff who enjoy working with stroke patients to regain as much functioning and mobility as possible. We offer an intensive and well organized program that will be targeted to meet your unique needs. If you are interested in setting up a post-stroke rehabilitation program for yourself or a loved one, please give us a call at (608) 643-3383.

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According to the American Stroke Association, Stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. It is theNo. 5 cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States.

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts (or ruptures). When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood (and oxygen) it needs, so it and brain cells die.

Some Stroke Statistics

  • About 795,000 Americans each year suffer a new or recurrent stroke. That means, on average, a stroke occurs every 40 seconds.
  • Stroke kills nearly 129,000 people a year. It is the No. 5 cause of death.
  • On average, every 4 minutes someone dies of stroke.
  • About 40 percent of stroke deaths occur in males, and 60 percent in females.
  • In 2010, worldwide prevalence of stroke was 33 million, with 16.9 million people having a first stroke. Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability.
  • 2010 for stroke-related medical costs and disability.
  • African-Americans have nearly twice the risk for a first-ever stroke than Caucasians and a much higher death rate from stroke.

It is extremely beneficial to be able to identify when someone is having a stroke.  The faster they are able to get medical attention, the better their chances of recovery are.

To identify someone who is having a stroke, remember the acronym FAST.


F:  Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?

A:  Arm Weakness Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S:  Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?

T:  Time to call 9-1-1 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.

Identifying the symptoms of a stroke and getting prompt medical attention can make all of the difference in the lasting effects and the recovery of the stroke victim.