What is TIA?

TIA means transient ischaemic attack, sometimes called a ‘mini stroke’. It is similar to a stroke except the symptoms fully resolve within 24hours, but usually within a few minutes to an hour.

A TIA happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is temporarily cut off. It is usually caused by a blockage in a blood vessel which carries blood to the brain. It can happen because of narrowing of a blood vessel or because a small blood clot has travelled to the brain from elsewhere in the body. The lack of blood supply means that part of the brain does not receive oxygen and cannot send out the correct signals to parts of your body. As the blood flow is restored the symptoms start to improve.

What are the symptoms?

TIA’s start suddenly without warning.

There are many symptoms of TIA and stroke, the most common include:

  • Weakness or numbness to one side of the body
  • Facial droop
  • Problems with speech
  • Visual loss
  • Problems with balance and co-ordination.

F.A.S.T.

If you suspect TIA or stroke think and act FAST!

FACE

Ask them to smile; does their face look the same on both sides?

ARMS

Ask them to raise both arms in the air, can they keep them up?

SPEECH

Can they speak clearly? Are you able to understand them, can they understand you?

TIME

to call 05422319256 if you recognise any of these symptoms.

If you or anyone else thinks you have had a TIA or stroke, it is very important you seek urgent medical attention. You must dial 05422319256 and ask for an ambulance, even if things are getting better or they are back to normal. A TIA can often act as a warning for a stroke in the future.

What are the risk factors for TIA?

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • High cholesterol (hyperlipidaemia)
  • Problems which cause blood clots such as an irregular heart rhythm (atrial fibrillation)
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Excess alcohol
  • Obesity

These are risk factors for TIA because they either cause damage to the walls of the blood vessels or cause blood clots to form.

Investigations we may perform or arrange

  • Blood pressure check
  • ECG – check your heart rhythm
  • Bloods – including checking kidney and liver function, your cholesterol and blood sugar levels
  • CT and / or MRI scan of your brain
  • Ultrasound of the blood vessels in your neck – to check for narrowing in these blood vessels
  • Ultrasound of your heart
  • 72 hour heart monitoring.

Medications used to treat TIA (further information is available on request)

  • Anti-platelets – Help prevent blood clots by reducing the stickiness of your blood. Example: Aspirin, Clopidogrel.
  • Statins – Helps to reduce cholesterol and smooths the lining of blood vessels. Examples: Atorvastatin, Rosuvastatin, Simvastatin, Pravastatin.
  • Anticoagulants– Helps prevent blood clots by reducing blood clotting -usually used if you have an irregular heart rhythm such as atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter. Examples: Warfarin, Apixaban, Edoxaban, Dabigatran, Rivaroxaban.

What you can do to reduce your risk

Stop smoking: Smoking can increase your risk of having a stroke or TIA as some of the inhaled chemicals enter your bloodstream and can damage the lining of your blood vessels. This can cause them to become narrow and become ‘furred up’. Smoking also increases the stickiness of you blood making blood clots more likely to form. Carbon monoxide and nicotine enter your blood when smoking – carbon monoxide reduces the levels of oxygen in your blood. Nicotine can make your heart beat faster and cause your blood pressure to rise.

Reduce High Blood Pressure: High blood pressure can cause damage to the walls of your arteries, making them hard and narrow therefore more likely to become damaged and small blood vessels are more likely to block. If your GP has prescribed blood pressure tablets it is important to keep taking them. You can help lower your blood pressure by taking regular exercise, eat less than 6g (1level teaspoon) of salt per day, reduce stress and relax.

Reduce Cholesterol: Cholesterol is needed in the body, it is made in the liver but also can be found in some foods. High cholesterol is a risk factor for TIA because excess cholesterol is stored in the walls of the blood vessels making them uneven. This can cause the blood vessels to become narrowed reducing blood flow. Some of this build up can break off and travel to the brain blocking a blood vessel. Statins can help reduce cholesterol levels and smooth the lining of blood vessels. Drinking grapefruit juice while taking statins can increase their effect so should be avoided. Eating less red meat, dairy products can help reduce cholesterol levels. Unsaturated fats are healthier that saturated fats.

Diabetes: Is a condition where there is too much glucose in your blood – if not well controlled this can damage the blood vessels and cause them to ‘fur’ up. Your GP can help with diabetes control.

Stress: Stress does not directly cause TIA or stroke but it can increase the risk of having a TIA or stroke.

Alcohol: Drinking above the recommended level of alcohol (14 units a week) can increase the risk of TIA or stroke.

Weight: Being overweight is associated with high blood pressure and diabetes. Regular gentle exercise can help with weight loss and also helps to reduce blood pressure.

Diet and Exercise: It is recommended to eat five portions of fresh fruit or vegetables daily and maintain a healthy overall diet. Regular exercise helps to reduce your risk of having a stroke or heart attack. It is recommended to do at least 150mins of physical activity a week which can include walking, running, cycling, swimming.

Questions or concerns?

If you have additional questions, we’re here for you. Call or WhatsApp us and we’ll answer all your questions.