Reducing Heart Risk After a Mini-Stroke

Healthy Heart|Dec.14, 2019

Mini-Strokes Are a Wake-Up Call — And a Chance to Live a Better Life.

It was a moment like any other. Until it wasn't.

Your head started pounding. Your right arm started tingling. When you tried to complete the simplest task, you couldn't. Suddenly, your legs gave out — as you collapsed to the floor, you thought, "Am I having a stroke?"

Fortunately, help arrived soon. In the emergency room, you learned you'd had a transient ischemic attack (TIA), which is also called a mini-stroke.

While symptoms went away within several hours, your concern that it could happen again didn't. The good news, however, is that you absolutely can live a full life after a mini-stroke. Here's how.

A Warning — and an Opportunity

An ischemic stroke occurs when a blockage in a major artery to your brain disrupts the flow of blood and oxygen. When a person experiences a TIA, that blockage is temporary. For that reason, mini-strokes typically don't cause any lasting damage, the National Health Portal (NHP) says, and recognizing and treating TIAs immediately can reduce your risk of an ischemic stroke.

Even though the blockage is only temporary, it indicates a problem: a partially blocked artery or a clot source in your heart. There's a reason the NHP calls TIAs "warning strokes" — they signal that a stroke may be on its way. According to the Indian Stroke Association, 11 percent of people who experience a TIA have a stroke in the next seven days, and approximately 29 percent have one in the next five years.

But a warning isn't a life sentence. It's a wake-up call. It's an opportunity for a second chance — to think more about your heart health and your future, change your lifestyle and take steps to prevent a stroke.

What the Doctor Ordered

To confirm that you've had a mini-stroke, doctors will run tests to determine the underlying cause of your mini-stroke. Initial tests include measuring your blood pressure and testing for high cholesterol and diabetes. They will also likely run tests to check your brain and heart health.

Getting the proper treatment — and getting it right away — can help reduce your risk of a stroke. Your treatment plan may include daily medication and a referral to a specialist for further evaluation. Be sure to ask your doctor about any restrictions in your daily life, such as avoiding long periods of sitting or certain types of exercise.

Partnering with your doctor and adhering to your treatment plan is your best bet for a healthier, stroke-free future.

Living a Heart-Healthy Life

One of the most common causes of a mini-stroke, according to the Times of India, is coronary artery disease (CAD), damage in the heart's major blood vessels caused by atherosclerosis, a buildup of fatty substances in the arteries of the heart. Reducing your risk of heart disease is crucial in a stroke prevention plan.

Positive heart-healthy choices can help control atherosclerosis; these include following a healthy eating plan, getting moderate exercise multiple times a week and keeping your weight in a healthy range. Perhaps the biggest change you can make is to quit smoking. Smoking damages the blood vessels and speeds up atherosclerosis, the NHP says; it's also been found to increase the risk of stroke by up to 46 percent in men, the Times of India reports.

Better still, these changes do more than just decrease your risk of stroke. Living a heart-healthy life will give you more energy and help you live your best life overall.

Enjoy Life and Have Fun

Knowing that you're taking steps to prevent a stroke will enable you to relax and take part in the fun of life.

Take some time off work, book a massage, indulge in a fun night out, or just take the time to listen to your favorite music. Doing things you enjoy reduces stress, which can improve your heart health and reduce stroke risk.

After a mini-stroke, you've been given another opportunity. Take it, enjoy it and remember to embrace every minute of it.


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