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Issue 93 Item 8 WARNINGS OF STROKE, A REMINDER

Too few people know the symptoms of TIA’s which lead to stroke. Duke University physicians found that far too few people who had experienced TIAs (transient ischemic attacks) understood that these attacks (in which not enough blood circulates through part of the brain) must be taken seriously as warning symptoms of stroke, even though they are usually brief and followed by complete recovery.

TIAs produce numbness or weakness of part of the body for a short time (usually 5 minutes or less, occasionally for 1-2 hours, and rarely up to 24 hours). Also, during TIAs one may temporarily have slurred speech or be unable to talk, be dizzy and confused, or experience partial loss of one’s field of vision (commonly reported as "like a curtain coming down over my eyes"). Recovery is usually sudden and complete (until the next TIA).

In the Duke series of 1,707 people with TIAs, 10% developed a full-blown stroke within 3 months, half of them within the first 2 days. The other half had TIAs repeatedly, with 14% of them developing strokes 3 months or more later. Tragically, many (perhaps most) of these strokes could have been prevented had the patients taken their symptoms more seriously. Too many people, it seems, deceive themselves that nothing is wrong since they feel completely normal again after a TIA, and because they do not realize that TIAs are symptoms of impending stroke. Accordingly, they feel that the incident need not be taken seriously, and are not inclined to report it to a doctor. Even if they do report to their doctors, they tend not to take medication as prescribed, or stop taking it because they have no further TIAs.

It is important for TIA victims to keep taking stroke-preventing medication for the rest of their lives. Prime subjects for strokes after TIAs are those with high blood pressure, valvular heart disease or diabetes, those over age 60, and those whose symptoms include weakness lasting longer than 10 minutes. All these people are twice as likely than others to have a stroke soon after a TIA. Sources: GERIATRICS (55#3:89,2000)