Showing posts with label treatment for strokes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label treatment for strokes. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

TIA Mini Strokes - Transient Ischemic Attacks

Recently, I was shocked to learn that a good friend of mine had experienced three mini strokes, also known as TIA's or Transient Ischemic Attacks, in the past four months.  When she told me what happened, she described her first TIA this way:

She was discussing a new project with her boss when, inexplicably, she realized that nothing her boss was telling her made sense, even though my friend was familiar with the project and knew she should understand what was being said.  She asked her boss to write the details down for her and then she left the room.  Although she could walk and talk, looked normal and was even able to cover up her confusion, she still realized that she couldn't understand most of what was being said to her.  She went outside and sat on a bench outside her office building.  A few minutes later, a co-worker came out to check on her and realized there was a problem.  They called an ambulance.  Her confusion gradually passed and she was feeling much better by the time she reached the hospital.  She was shocked to learn that she had experienced a mini-stroke or TIA.

Our conversation completely stunned me, especially when she told me that it has happened twice more since that first event, despite the fact that she is being treated for the condition.  This woman has a high powered job as the supervisor over a number of employees in a California state department.  She is normally assertive and comes across as self-confident and capable.  I was shocked to hear that something like this had happened to her.  I was equally surprised to hear that she was able to hide it from her superior, while she was in the middle of experiencing a TIA.  Is it possible someone else I am with in the future could experience a TIA, and I would not even recognize it?

I realized how important it is to learn the symptoms so I would recognize them, should this ever happen to me or someone I am with.

Facts about TIA - Transient Ischemic Attacks

*  A TIA has similar symptoms to a major stroke, but they usually last only a few minutes and cause no permanent damage.

*   Like a major stroke, TIAs are typically caused by a build-up of plaque in your arteries which can release a blood clot that blocks the blood supply to part of your brain.  In a TIA, the blockage is temporary so the symptoms pass quickly.

*  About one-third of the people who have a TIA will eventually have a major stroke.  In about half of those cases, it will happen within a year.

*  TIAs are sometimes regarded as a warning of an impending stroke.

Risk Factors for TIAs

*  Some risk factors you cannot avoid: being over age 55, being male, being black, having sickle cell disease, or having a personal or family history of strokes or TIAs.  My friend is a 59 year old white female, so it is obvious that people who don't fit the typical "profile" can also experience a TIA.

*  Certain lifestyle choices can make you more susceptible to TIAs: smoking, heavy drinking, poor diet, lack of exercise, illegal drug use (particularly cocaine), or using birth control pills.  My friend does not smoke, drink or use illegal drugs.  She still experienced a TIA.

*  There are other risk factors that you can treat to lower your risk: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, peripheral artery disease, obesity, carotid artery disease, or high levels of homocysteine. My friend has lost weight, but did have a history of obesity and was pre-diabetic, both of which could have contributed to her TIA.

As you can see, almost anyone can have a mini stroke.  Even if you do not think you are at risk, you should still pay attention to any symptoms you might experience.

Symptoms of TIA Mini Strokes

*  You may experience weakness or numbness on one side of your face, or in one arm or leg.

*  Your speech may be blurred or garbled.  You may also have trouble understanding what other people say.  (This was the only symptom that my friend experienced, and that was frightening enough.)

*  You may experience temporary blindness in one or both eyes, or double-vision.

*  You may feel dizzy or uncoordinated.

Remember, like my friend, you may only experience one of these symptoms.  Even if your symptoms seem mild and go away after a few minutes, it is important that you see a doctor right away in order to prevent a major stroke.

Treatment for Transient Ischemic Attacks

After a variety of tests to diagnose the cause of your TIA, your doctor will choose a treatment regimen for you. Below are some of the common treatment plans:

*  Anti-platelet drugs such as aspirin, Plavix or Aggrenox.

*  Anti-coagulants such as Coumadin, Warfarin or Heparin.

*  Carotid surgery to clear out the plaques.

*  Angioplasty or the insertion of a stent in your carotid artery.

For additional information, you may want to read this article from the Mayo Clinic:

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Cut Your Stroke Risk Now!

Baby Boomers are starting to reach the age when they are at a higher risk for strokes.  In fact, having a stroke is the fourth leading cause of death and it is the number one cause of disabilities.  Anyone can have a stroke at almost any age.  However, once you reach the age of 55 your risk doubles ... and this year the last of the Baby Boomers are reaching the age of 50!  (Yes, nearly all the Baby Boomers are now considered senior citizens.)

What is a Stroke?

A stroke happens when a blood vessel leading to the brain either becomes blocked or it bursts.  When this happens, the brain cells begin to die.  Patients need to be treated quickly or they can die or become seriously disabled.

Symptoms of a Stroke

If you suspect that you or someone you know is having a stroke, here is a quick way to check.  Ask the person to smile, speak or raise their hands above their head.  If their smile is uneven, their words or slurred, or they cannot raise both hands above their head, call an ambulance or rush them to the hospital immediately.

Other symptoms include trouble walking, difficulty speaking or understanding what is being said to them, paralysis or numbness in the face, leg or arm, trouble seeing in either one or both of your eyes, or a severe headache, often with dizziness or vomiting.

Treatment for Strokes

If you suspect that someone is having a stroke, it is important that you get to the hospital quickly.  If you arrive in time, they will administer a clot-busting intravenous medication called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA).  It is essential that this drug be given within three hours after the symptoms of a stroke first become visible.  When tPA is given quickly enough, one out of three patients will see major improvement and, in come cases, the symptoms are completely eliminated.

Unfortunately, only about 10% of patients receive tPA because they arrive to late for it to help, or because they are on blood thinners or they have had recent surgery.  In those cases, a device may be inserted into an artery in the groin and snaked up to the brain in order to remove a clot or stop the bleeding in the brain.

A stroke kills about 2 million brain cells a minute, so it is extremely important that action is taken quickly..

How to Prevent a Stroke

Once you understand the risks of a stroke, you can easily understand how important it is to do everything you can to protect yourself.  Fortunately, there are steps you can take that will dramatically reduce your chances of experiencing a stroke:

Keep your blood pressure under control.  Take medication, if necessary.

Keep your cholesterol levels low.  Use medication if you cannot lower it through food and exercise.

If you are diabetic or pre-diabetic, manage your blood sugar levels carefully.

If you are overweight, lose as much of it as possible.  This will also make it easier to deal with your blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes.

Get exercise.  It will help with your weight.  In addition, physical inactivity is considered a risk factor for strokes.

Limit your consumption of alcohol.  No more than two modest sized alcoholic drinks a day for men, and no more than one for women.

DO NOT SMOKE.  There is a high correlation between smoking and your risk of stroke.

Atrial fibrillation ... if you have a heart rhythm disorder, work with your doctor to come up with a strategy to treat it.

More Risk Factors

Your risk of having a stroke doubles EVERY TEN YEARS after the age of 55.

African-Americans are at a higher risk

You have an increased risk if you have is a family history of strokes or if you have ever had a stroke or heart attack.


"Saddleback Adds Advanced Stroke Care,"  Laguna Woods Globe, Orange County Register, November 21, 2013.

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