Strokes are very scary. Sometimes it can seem like you’re fine one minute, and the next things just stop working right. If you know the symptoms of stroke, however, you can actually often see signs before things get really bad. Researchers say that stroke patients report having a mini-stroke one week before. In fact, a study of stroke patients found that 43% of them suffered the same symptoms – a mini-stroke – one week before their stroke. (1)
A Mini Stroke vs. A Stroke
Stroke and mini-stroke are very similar, but there are some differences between the two. A mini-stroke is a small, temporary episode of neurological dysfunction caused by an interruption in blood flow to part of the brain. It is also called a transient ischemic attack, or TIA. A mini-stroke differs from a stroke in two ways: The damage to your brain is not as severe, and it does not last as long. A mini-stroke also has a different cause than a full-blown stroke. A mini-stroke is caused by a temporary blockage in the blood vessels that supply oxygen to your brain. (2)
A regular stroke is a major neurological impairment caused by permanent damage to part of the brain. There are two main types of mini-stroke: An ischemic stroke and a hemorrhagic stroke. In an ischemic stroke, blood flow to part of your brain is interrupted due to a clot in the blood vessels supplying oxygen-rich blood to that area. This type of mini-stroke causes symptoms similar to those of a regular stroke. In a hemorrhagic stroke, a blood vessel in your brain leaks or ruptures and causes bleeding into the surrounding tissues. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind cancer and heart disease. It’s also a leading cause of disability among adults ages 65 and older.
Study Shows 43% Of People Have A Mini Stroke Before A Full-Blown stroke
One study showed that 43% of people have a mini-stroke before they experience a full, regular stroke. Many of these people are experiencing the symptoms of this for days or even weeks before they finally go and see a doctor. The risk of having a full stroke is particularly high within the 48-hour window after a mini-stroke. The researchers say, however, that diagnosing mini strokes properly can be difficult, which is why it is important to see a doctor as soon as you can if you think you are having one.
“Confidently diagnosing a TIA is difficult since most patients are back to normal function by the time they arrive at the emergency room,” said Hardik P. Amin, M.D., chair of the scientific statement writing committee and associate professor of neurology and medical stroke director at Yale New Haven Hospital, St. Raphael Campus in New Haven, Connecticut. “There also is variability across the country in the workup that TIA patients may receive. This may be due to geographic factors, limited resources at health care centers or varying levels of comfort and experience among medical professionals.”
The Symptoms of Mini Stroke
Mini strokes are much more treatable than a full-blown stroke, which can actually cause permanent brain damage. This is why it is critically important that you are aware of the early symptoms of stroke so you can see a doctor before it’s too late. The symptoms of both types of stroke include:
- Numbness or tingling on one side of your body
- Weakness on one side of your body
- Slurred speech or difficulty talking
- Difficulty seeing out of one eye or both eyes
To remember the symptoms of a full stroke, you can use the acronym FAST:
- Face drooping
- Arm weakness
- Speech difficulty
- Time to call 911
Risk Factors For A Stroke
There are several factors that increase your risk of having a stroke. Thankfully, most of them are lifestyle behavior related and can therefore be controlled by you. These factors include:
- Family history of stroke
- High blood pressure
- Diabetes or other chronic health problems like kidney disease and heart disease
- Obesity (BMI over 30)
The Bottom Line
Strokes are highly dangerous and all too common in the United States. Thankfully, by making healthy lifestyle choices, you can significantly reduce your risk of having one. Knowing the signs and symptoms of both mini-strokes and strokes will also ensure you get the help you need before permanent damage is done. If you think you or someone you know is experiencing the symptoms of a stroke, seek medical attention immediately. It could save a life.
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- “Stroke symptoms, even if they disappear within an hour, need emergency assessment.” Science Daily. American Heart Association. January 19, 2023.
- “Ministroke vs. regular stroke: What’s the difference?” Mayo Clinic. Jonathan Graff-Radford, M.D.
- “43% of stroke patients report the same symptoms 1 week before the event, finds study” Express