A mini stroke is more likely to occur in seniors than in younger adults. It’s important to be aware of the symptoms of a mini stroke, as well as the proper response if you or an elderly loved one experiences an episode. Read more below to find out how this dangerous neurological dysfunction can occur in seniors.
What is a Mini Stroke?
The medical term for a mini stroke is a transient ischemic attack (TIA). It’s defined as being a temporary, cerebrovascular dysfunction, caused by a lack of blood flow in the brain or spinal cord. Although the symptoms are very similar to that of a stroke, the symptoms go away within 24 hours, with most cases lasting under an hour. Sometimes, the symptoms can fade in as little as one minute. Unlike a regular stroke, it will not lead to permanent disabilities or cause any actual brain damage.
This does not mean that mini strokes aren’t a cause for concern, however.
Are Mini Strokes Dangerous?
In short, yes. While mini strokes won’t cause any actual physical damage themselves, they are almost always a warning sign that an elderly person is at risk of having a full stroke. In fact, about 1 in every 3 people who have a mini stroke will have a stroke later on. The risk of a stroke is actually highest within the first 48 hours following a transient ischemic attack.
For this reason, if you or a caregiver witness a senior loved one having a mini stroke, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Knowing the signs and symptoms can help a senior get medical treatment as soon as possible. A study published last year, interviewing 1,000 people who experiences mini strokes, found that around half of the subjects did not seek medical attention within three hours of experiencing symptoms.
What Are the First Signs (Symptoms) of a Mini Stroke?
If you already know the symptoms of stroke, then you know the symptoms of mini stroke; they are very similar, and for this reason, it’s impossible to know if the elderly person is experiencing a full or mini stroke while it’s occurring. The only noticeable difference between the two is the brevity of a mini stroke’s symptoms.
The most common symptoms of a mini stroke (TIA) are:
- Slurring of words and difficulty understanding speech;
- Dizziness or issues with balance;
- Double vision or loss of sight in one or both eyes;
- Syncope (fainting);
- Intense headaches;
- Numbness or weakness on just one side of the body.
While the symptoms of TIA normally pass quickly, it’s still important to realize the severity and call 911 if a senior is experiencing stroke-like symptoms.
What Are the Risk Factors for TIA?
There are certain factors that may put a senior at risk for having mini strokes, potentially leading to major strokes. Some of these risk factors include:
- A family history of strokes;
- Atrial fibrillation (heart disorder);
- High blood pressure;
- Carotid artery disease;
- Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption;
- High cholesterol;
It’s also important to note that seniors are more likely to have an episode of TIA than younger adults, and women experience them more frequently than men. Oddly enough, strokes are most frequently reported on Mondays than any other day of the week.
Treatment of a TIA is intended to prevent a full stroke; if a senior has a mini stroke that is left untreated, it is likely they will experience a major stroke within 3 months.
A doctor will usually conduct different diagnostic tests, such as an MRI scan or CT scan in order to determine the cause. If the doctor believes a heart disorder could be the cause, the may also order a test such as a heart rhythm monitoring or CTA. Often, anti-coagulants, also called blood-thinners, will be given for long-term use in order to prevent blood clots in the brain.
Aspirin is also very commonly prescribed, as it makes the platelets in your blood less likely to join together and clot within the vessels of the brain.
Remember, it’s important that someone is with the senior at all times if they’re at risk of a stroke. If the elderly person lives alone, or if you’re considering hiring a professional caregiver for them, please don’t hesitate to contact Complete Care Coordination today for a free consultation.