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'Mini Strokes' Linked to Lower Life Expectancy

Study Highlights the Importance of Taking Mini Strokes Seriously
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 14, 2011 -- "Mini strokes," with symptoms that last just a few minutes or hours, are well-recognized warning signs for potentially deadly larger strokes. Now new research confirms that they are associated with a lower life expectancy.

Survival rates after mini strokes, known medically as transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), were 20% lower than expected among study participants nine years later compared to the general population.

The findings highlight the fact that TIAs are serious events that should not be ignored, says stroke specialist and American Heart Association spokesman Philip Gorelick, MD. He directs the Center for Stroke Research at the University of Illinois College of Medicine.

The study is published in the November issue of Stroke.

"TIAs are a warning and people should definitely heed the warning and seek diagnosis and treatment immediately," he tells WebMD.

TIA Symptoms

TIAs typically do not cause permanent brain damage and do not immediately lead to death.

Like strokes, symptoms can include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, often occurring on one side of the body.
  • Confusion or trouble speaking that also comes on suddenly.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination.

These symptoms may go away in as little as a few minutes or last as long as 24 hours. About 40% of people who have them will go on to have an actual stroke, and half of these strokes occur within two days of the TIA, according to the National Stroke Association.

Within three months of having a TIA, about 10% to 15% of people will have an actual stroke.

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