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What are Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIA)

TIA stands for Transient Ischemic Attacks. Ischemia is when there is a lack of blood inflow to a tissue most commonly due to blockage in the vessel carrying blood. It’s such a common term used in the medical world that I really had to try hard to explain it short and simple. So a TIA is basically a block in the vessel which is short-lived causing temporary cessation of blood flow to a particular organ giving rise to some short-lived symptoms and signs that will resolve with the resolution of the block.

What are Transient Ischemic Attacks
© A Place for Mom

Contrary to popular belief, TIA is not the same as a stroke. TIA can predispose to stroke. In fact, it is considered a warning sign for an impending stroke.

Spoken most commonly with respect to the brain, TIA symptoms are similar to that of a stroke and include the following:

  • Numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body
  • Confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Difficulty walking
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of balance or coordination

Most symptoms of a TIA disappear within an hour, although they may last for up to 24 hours. Because you cannot tell if these symptoms are from a TIA or a stroke, you should go to the hospital right away.

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Risk Factors for a TIA

Risk Factors for a TIA
© Healthline

Anyone can have a TIA  but the risk increases with age. If you’ve previously had a stroke, pay careful attention to the signs of TIA, because they could signal a second stroke in your future.

The risk factors are smoking, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and blood clots called embolisms. Get help immediately if you think you could be having a TIA. Trained medical staff will need to evaluate your condition. Some causes are only visible with hospital equipment. When a TIA occurs in a young person with no clear risk factors, the patient might be sent to a neurologist for testing to rule out vasculitis, carotid artery dissection, and other types of injury or infection.

Risk factors you can’t change

You can’t change the following risk factors for a transient ischemic attack and stroke. But knowing you’re at risk can motivate you to change your lifestyle to reduce other risks.

  • Family history– Your risk may be greater if one of your family members has had a TIA or a stroke.
  • Age– Your risk increases as you get older, especially after age 55.
  • Sex– Men have a slightly higher risk of a TIA and a stroke. But as women age, their risk of a stroke goes up.
  • Prior transient ischemic attack– If you’ve had one or more TIAs, you’re much more likely to have a stroke.
  • Sickle cell disease– Stroke is a frequent complication of sickle cell disease. Another name for this inherited disorder is sickle cell anemia. Sickle-shaped blood cells carry less oxygen and also tend to get stuck in artery walls, hampering blood flow to the brain. However, with proper treatment of sickle cell disease, you can lower your risk of a stroke.

Risk factors you can control

You can control or treat a number of factors — including certain health conditions and lifestyle choices — that increase your risk of a stroke. Having one or more of these risk factors doesn’t mean you’ll have a stroke, but your risk increases if you have two or more of them.

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Health conditions during TIA

Health conditions during TIA
© Harvard Health

1. High blood pressure– The risk of a stroke begins to increase at blood pressure readings higher than 140/90 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Your doctor will help you decide on a target blood pressure based on your age, whether you have diabetes, and other factors.

2. High cholesterol– Eating less cholesterol and fat, especially saturated fat and trans fat, may reduce the plaques in your arteries. If you can’t control your cholesterol through dietary changes alone, your doctor may prescribe a statin or another type of cholesterol-lowering medication.

3. Cardiovascular disease– This includes heart failure, a heart defect, a heart infection, or abnormal heart rhythm.

4. Carotid artery disease– The blood vessels in your neck that lead to your brain become clogged.

5. Peripheral artery disease (PAD)– The blood vessels that carry blood to your arms and legs become clogged.

6. Diabetes– Diabetes increases the severity of atherosclerosis — narrowing of the arteries due to the accumulation of fatty deposits — and the speed with which it develops.

7. High levels of homocysteine– Elevated levels of this amino acid in your blood can cause your arteries to thicken and scar, which makes them more susceptible to clots.

8. Excess weight– Obesity, not doing exercise regularly especially carrying extra weight in the abdominal area, increases stroke risk in both men and women.

Lifestyle choices

Lifestyle choices
© department of neurology
  • Cigarette smoking- Quit smoking to reduce your risk of a TIA and a stroke. Smoking increases your risk of blood clots, raises your blood pressure, and contributes to the development of cholesterol-containing fatty deposits in your arteries (atherosclerosis).
  • Physical inactivity or doing exercise regularly– Engaging in 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise regularly or on most days helps reduce risk.
  • Poor nutrition- Reducing your intake of fat and salt decreases your risk of a TIA and a stroke.
  • Heavy drinking- If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to no more than two drinks daily if you’re a man and one drink daily if you’re a woman.
  • Use of illicit drugs- Avoid cocaine and other illicit drugs

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Symptoms of Transient Ischemic Attacks

Transient ischemic attacks usually last a few minutes. Most signs and symptoms disappear within an hour, though rarely symptoms may last up to 24 hours. The signs and symptoms of a TIA resemble those found early in a stroke and may include sudden onset of:

  • Weakness, numbness, or paralysis in your face, arm, or leg, typically on one side of your body
  • Slurred or garbled speech or difficulty understanding others
  • Blindness in one or both eyes or double vision
  • Vertigo or loss of balance or coordination

You may have more than one TIA, and the recurrent signs and symptoms may be similar or different depending on which area of the brain is involved.

Symptoms of Transient Ischemic Attacks
©DailyExpress

What happens when you go to your doctor?

He will run a series of tests and discuss the test results with you afterward.

Your doctor will want to know about your signs – what they were, how long they lasted, and whether you have had them before. This will help distinguish between a TIA and other possible causes.

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Your doctor will do a series of tests. These vary from person to person and may include:

1. Brain scans

Computerized tomography (CT scan) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) take detailed pictures of your brain. After a suspected TIA, everyone should have a brain scan.

A brain scan is used to decide if you have had a TIA, a small stroke (with no ongoing impacts), or something that ‘mimics’ a TIA. There are other conditions that mimic TIA, so the expert review is needed to distinguish TIAs from these other conditions.

If you have had a TIA, your scan will not show any signs of recent brain injury.

Brain scans
© WomenWoking

2. Imaging of the arteries

Arteries carry blood from the heart to the brain. Tests can see how the blood flows through the arteries, as damaged or blocked arteries in the neck can cause TIA (Transient Ischemic Attacks). This is done in a variety of ways including ultrasound, CT angiogram, or magnetic resonance angiogram.

3. Blood pressure check

After an initial check of your blood pressure, you may need it measured regularly.

4. Heart tests

 An electrocardiogram (ECG) tests for abnormal heart rhythm. Everyone suspected of having had a TIA should have an ECG. Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a heart condition in which your heart beats out of rhythm. Atrial fibrillation increases your risk of stroke, so testing for atrial fibrillation is very important after a TIA.

Heart tests
© Medical News Today

You may also need to wear a Holter monitor for 24 hours or longer. This checks your heart rhythm over an extended period of time. Your doctor may also order an echocardiogram (cardiac echo or ECHO) which is an ultrasound test that looks at the structures of the heart, as well as blood flow within the heart.

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5. Blood tests

 These tests are used to check your health. Blood tests can cover:

  • Cholesterol (fasting lipids)
  • Blood sugar levels
  • How well your kidneys work
  • The way your blood clots

Prevention from Transient Ischemic Attacks

1. Don’t smoke– Stopping smoking reduces your risk of a TIA or a stroke.

2. Limit cholesterol and fat– Cutting back on cholesterol and fat, especially saturated fat and trans fat, in your diet as well as exercise regularly may help in reducing the buildup of plaques in your arteries.

3. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables– These foods contain nutrients such as potassium, folate, and antioxidants, which may protect against a Transient Ischemic Attacksor a stroke.

4. Limit sodium– If you have high blood pressure, avoiding salty foods, and not adding salt to food may reduce your blood pressure. Avoiding salt may not prevent hypertension, but excess sodium may increase blood pressure in people who are sensitive to sodium.

5. Doing Exercise Regularly– If you have high blood pressure, doing exercise regularly is one of the few ways you can lower your blood pressure without drugs.

6. Limit alcohol intake– Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. The recommended limit is no more than one drink daily for women and two a day for men.

7. Maintain a healthy weight– Being overweight contributes to other risk factors, such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Losing weight with diet and doing exercise regularly may lower your blood pressure and improve your cholesterol levels.

8. Don’t use illicit drugs– Drugs such as cocaine are associated with an increased risk of Transient Ischemic Attacks or a stroke.

9. Control of diabetes– You can manage diabetes and high blood pressure with diet, exercise regularly leads to weight control, and, when necessary, medication.

Prevention from Transient Ischemic Attacks
© Integris

Conclusion

After 55-60 years of a carefree, happy go lucky life, Strokes are pretty common. Look out for the warning signs and stay aware. Advise the same to your loved ones. If caught in time, strokes aren’t all that dangerous. Keep doing exercise regularly more and more also Stay healthy, and stay happy!

We hope this article helped you to know about Transient Ischemic Attacks. You may also want to see our guide on What Too Much Sodium Do To Your Body, Salt Side Effects, and How To Maintain Hygiene In Intimate Area.

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