Stroke: Signs you should not dismiss – a mini stroke is a significant warning

Stroke Association Campaign about mini-stroke: Not just a funny turn

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A mini stroke is indicative of a lack of oxygen reaching the brain, and while the effects might be short-lived – and easily missed – it is an indication that a more brain-damaging stroke is on the way. The NHS pointed out the “sudden” signs of a TIA mini stroke, which can be remembered using the acronym FAST.

  • Face – the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have drooped.
  • Arms – the person may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there, because of weakness or numbness in one arm.
  • Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all, despite appearing to be awake; they may also have problems understanding what you’re saying to them.
  • Time – it’s time to call 999 immediately if you notice any of these signs or symptoms.

Even if these symptoms disappear within minutes, you should still request an ambulance by calling 999.

People considered “high-risk” of a stroke include those who have diabetes or high blood pressure.

Sometimes, a mini stroke can cause different symptoms that appear over a few seconds.

Such symptoms might include:

  • Complete paralysis of one side of the body
  • Sudden vision loss, blurred vision or double vision
  • Vertigo
  • Being sick
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty understanding what others are saying
  • Problems with balance and co-ordination
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia).

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If you suspect you are having a mini stroke, while awaiting an ambulance, do take an aspirin (if you have one nearby).

“You should be referred to see a specialist within 24 hours of the start of your symptoms,” the NHS stated.

“A TIA is a warning that you’re at risk of having a full stroke in the near future.”

I think I may have already had a TIA

If you believe you could have had a mini stroke in the past that was not checked out by a medical professional, make an urgent appointment with your doctor.

What causes a mini stroke?

A mini stroke occurs when one of the blood vessels supplying the brain with oxygen and nutrients is blocked.

The usual cause of the blockage is a blood clot that’s formed elsewhere in the body.

What causes a blood clot?

When arteries have been narrowed by deposits of fatty materials, including cholesterol, the hardened plaques can break off and cause injury to the blood vessels.

The American Society of Haematology explained that a blood clot helps to “prevent excessive bleeding when a blood vessel is injured”.

However, if the blood clot blocks the narrowed artery, the blood supply to the brain can be blocked, hence why a mini stroke or stroke occurs.

“Blood clots are among the most preventable types of blood conditions,” the organisation stated.

The best ways to minimise the risk of blood clots

Stay active, the NHS advised, which means aiming for at least 150 minutes of exercise each week.

Do make sure that whatever activity you do, whether it be swimming or a brisk walk, that it increases your heart rate and makes you feel a bit warmer in the moment.

It is also advisable to drink more water (in order to prevent dehydration, which is a risk factor for a blood clot).

Moreover, if you are overweight, you need to aim to lose the pounds to become a healthy weight for your build and height.

If you are a frequent traveller, wearing flight stockings or socks can also be helpful.

In rare cases, a mini stroke can be caused by a bleed in the brain, which is known as a haemorrhage, the health body added.

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