Dr. Chauncey W. Crandall, author of Dr. Crandall’s Heart Health Report newsletter, is chief of the Cardiac Transplant Program at the world-renowned Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. He practices interventional, vascular, and transplant cardiology. Dr. Crandall received his post-graduate training at Yale University School of Medicine, where he also completed three years of research in the Cardiovascular Surgery Division. Dr. Crandall regularly lectures nationally and internationally on preventive cardiology, cardiology healthcare of the elderly, healing, interventional cardiology, and heart transplants. Known as the “Christian physician,” Dr. Crandall has been heralded for his values and message of hope to all his heart patients.

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Understanding the Mini-Stroke

Wednesday, 23 Feb 2011 09:11 AM


A very serious warning sign of an impending stroke is a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or “mini-stroke.” About one-third of the people who experience a TIA go on to have a major stroke within a year, according to the American Stroke Association. A TIA is the most important warning to recognize because taking it seriously gives you time to prevent a more serious stroke.

Basically, there is no difference between a TIA and a stroke except for duration and damage. In layman’s terms, a transient ischemic attack simply means a temporary interruption of blood flow and oxygen to the brain. It happens very quickly and lasts just a short time — between one to five minutes. And when it’s over, there is no permanent damage to the brain. It is possible for the symptoms to last a couple of hours, but there is always complete recovery within 24 hours.

Because it happens so fast, many people are inclined to ignore it. In fact, the whole event barely takes enough time to wonder what on Earth just happened! But a TIA is almost always the result of a clot, and therefore it’s a serious warning signal.

Think of the aorta, the largest artery in the body, as a river from the heart to the brain. A blood clot that breaks loose is carried by that river into smaller and smaller pathways until it reaches a place too narrow to pass. At that point it becomes a blockage cutting off blood flow to the brain.

If the clot dislodges right away or the body dissolves it, the symptoms will be temporary — a TIA. But whatever caused the event is still lurking within the cardiovascular system. The incident may have passed, but the danger has not.

Not surprisingly, half of the people who experience a TIA fail to report it to their doctor. But they’re walking time bombs, although they may not know it.

TIAs also can occur after a patient has experienced a full-blown stroke. If this happens, it means something in the treatment plan is not working. In this case, the patient should seek medical attention immediately.

I call a TIA “the first shot in battle” when it comes to stroke prevention treatment. It’s not a warning you can afford to ignore. Taking it seriously and getting immediate help can save your life.

The signs of a TIA are the same as stroke. They are:

1. Sudden vision problems; difficulty seeing out of one or both eyes.

2. Sudden headache; severe pain with no apparent cause.

3. Sudden confusion; you become unable to think or speak clearly, or can’t understand what others are saying to you.

4. Sudden numbness; weakness and lack of feeling in the face, arm, or leg, particularly if it is isolated on one side of the body.

5. Sudden lack of coordination, including dizziness or loss of balance.





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