June 16, 2005 -- Dutch researchers say minor strokes, or transient ischemic
attacks (TIAs), are often followed by other strokes or heart attacks within the next
That's all the more reason to improve prevention efforts in TIA survivors, say the researchers, who included Ale
Agra, MD, of the neurology department at the University Medical Centre Utrecht
in the Netherlands.
Agra's team studied more than 2,400 TIA patients for 10 years. They found
that 60% of the patients had died and 54% had a least one heart attack or stroke.
They show that during a 10-year period, a person with a history of a minor
stroke has a 44% risk of having a stroke or heart attack. The results appear in
They also show that less than half (48%) survived 10 years without having a
stroke or a heart attack.
Every 45 seconds, someone in the U.S. has a stroke. Every three minutes,
someone dies of a stroke. That's about 700,000 strokes and nearly 163,000
deaths per year, says the American Stroke Association.
Stroke is the No. 3 cause of U.S. deaths. If not fatal, stroke can be
disabling. Immediate medical attention is a must, since some stroke medications have to be given in a short time frame.
Warning signs listed by the American Stroke Association include:
Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arms, or leg, especially on one
side of the body
Sudden confusion or trouble with speaking or understanding
Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, or trouble walking
Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
Stroke can happen when a blood clot blocks blood flow to the brain (ischemic
-- the most common type) or when a blood vessel bursts (hemorrhagic) and
prevents blood from reaching the brain.
In TIAs, clots are temporary and the symptoms often go away quickly. But
make no mistake; they are not innocent events and deserve swift care. The
symptoms are the same as those of a stroke, but are temporary.
TIAs can precede bigger strokes and other problems, as Agra and colleagues
On average, Agra's participants were 65 years old. They signed up for the
study within three months of their TIA or minor stroke. It's not known if that
was their first such event.
"Our study shows that, roughly 10 years after a presentation of TIA or minor
ischemic stroke, about 60% of patients had died and 54% had experienced at
least one new vascular event," says the study. "Event-free survival after 10
years was 48%."
The risk of stroke is highest immediately following the first event.
However, in the study it declined during the first three years and then
gradually rose again.
Death risk was higher for older participants, as well as those with
diabetes, a history of a heart attack, and past surgery for poor