Q. My dad's doctor called his slurred speech episodes a "mini-stroke." What on earth is he talking about?
A: By definition, a stroke is a process that leads to brain damage due to reduced blood flow to part of the brain. The term "mini-stroke" usually refers to a TIA, or transient ischemic attack, where the blood flow to part of the brain is interrupted, but only temporarily, and before tissue death occurs. TIAs can be a sign that a full stroke is coming soon, so we take them very seriously. TIAs usually last less than 24 hours. Occasionally, a TIA-like spell will occur that lasts more than 24 hours, and this is called a RIND (reversible ischemic neurologic deficit). These are all big-time serious issues and require aggressive control of blood pressure, cholesterol and the clotting systems of the body, as well as smoking cessation, to prevent further damage. You can think of a TIA as having dodged one of the biggest bullets imaginable.
- Dr. John Wood, lipid disorder specialist; member, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society
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