Transient Ischemic Attack – Causes, Symptoms and Remedies

Transient ischemic attacks are temporary cardiovascular episodes with dangerous repercussions, so it is important to understand the causes, symptoms and remedies.

Transient Ischemic Attack Causes

Commonly known as a mini-stroke, a transient ischemic attack (TIA) causes neurological dysfunction due to a temporary loss of blood flow to the focal brain, spinal cord, or retina. Whereas a normal stroke is caused by a blood clot that blocks part of the blood flow to the brain, a transient ischemic attack is temporary, sometimes lasting only a few seconds or minutes. Fortunately, there is not typically any permanent damage as a result of a TIA, but it can be a warning sign that you are at high risk for strokes and other cardiovascular issues. The actual cause of a TIA is a buildup of plaque in the arteries, commonly known as atherosclerosis. That blockage can slow down the flow of blood, and thus cause a TIA, or cause a clot to form and move towards the brain from another part of the body.

Some of the risk factors for a Transient Ischemic Attack include family history of strokes, age, race (African Americans are disproportionately more likely to suffer from TIA), and previous history of cardiovascular problems, such as other TIAs. Lifestyle factors also play a significant role, but these are easier to manage, and include obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, heavy alcohol consumption, drugs and birth control.

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Transient Ischemic Attack Symptoms

These various types of ischemia can cause immediate effects on the body, such as weakness, numbness, or contralateral paralysis (paralysis on the opposite side of the body from where the ischemia occurs). These symptoms can last for as little as five minutes, up to 24 hours, but the effects are always temporary.

When the symptoms first appear, they feel a great deal like a stroke, which is why TIAs are particularly frightening for people. You may also suffer from immediate trouble with your vision, speech impediments, dizziness, balance issues, or sudden confusion and inability to focus. While the effects may be mild, and possibly disappear shortly after they appear, it is still unwise to choose home treatment. You should call 911 and go to the hospital, as mini-strokes may happen in rapid succession, or be a precursor to a full stroke or heart attack. Seeking medical attention is essential, despite the fact that there are a number of home preventative methods and treatments that could be effective.

Transient Ischemic Attack Remedies

The most effective means of treating or remedying TIA is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. If you are at a high risk of cardiovascular issues, or have experienced TIAs in the past, adjusting your lifestyle is particularly important. Some of the following are the best remedies and preventative methods for transient ischemic attacks.

Aspirin: If you feel as though you’re experiencing a transient ischemic attack, one of the first things you should do it take an aspirin, or warfarin – something that will thin the blood and prevent any more clots from building up and blocking the flow of blood to the brain.

Lower Blood Pressure: As mentioned, one of the leading risk factors for transient ischemic attacks is high blood pressure, as this can put extra strain on your cardiovascular system, arteries and overall health. High blood pressure also means that the blood vessels are more constricted, causing blood to pump through faster, and those narrowed channels make it easier for a clot or a clump of plaque to block the flow of blood to the brain. Adding potassium to your diet is a good way to naturally lower blood pressure, along with reducing stressors in your life and increasing your water intake.

Prevent or Manage Diabetes: Now considered a modern global epidemic, diabetes affects tens of millions of people, and is closely linked with long-term cardiovascular issues. The stress that diabetes can put on your body makes it easier for small mini-strokes to occur, and given that diabetes is often linked to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle, it makes sense that this condition would be a precursor to TIA. Ensuring that your blood sugar levels are normal and maintaining a healthy diet are two good preventative methods.

Quit Smoking: Smoking is one of the single-worst things that people do to their bodies. Aside from the significant increase in lung cancer risk, smoking also causes constriction in the blood vessels and arteries, weakens the respiratory system, and causes the heart to work harder than it needs. When those blood vessels constrict, TIAs become a much more real possibility, so put down the cigarettes!

Exercise: Staying fit and active is an easy and rewarding way to prevent or remedy heart conditions like transient ischemic attacks. By regularly working out your heart, raising your heart rate, and improving your metabolism, you can protect yourself from a long list of health problems. If you have already suffered a TIA or are at high risk for heart trouble, speak to a doctor before embarking on an ambitious exercise plan, and remember – everything in moderation!

Garlic: One of the most common ingredients in the kitchen is also a useful tool to protect your heart from TIA. Garlic and its active ingredient, allicin, has been directly connected to lowering blood pressure and dropping cholesterol levels. You can add garlic to your meals, or take garlic supplements, which give you a concentrated health boost to prevent transient ischemic attacks.

Fish Oil: Taking fish oil supplements is increasingly popular, as the active ingredients in fish oil are anti-inflammatory in nature and are known to lower blood pressure. By reducing inflammation throughout the body, including the arteries and blood vessels, the chance of a clot blocking blood to the brain are significantly reduced.

Ginkgo: This ancient herb has been used by cultures across the world and is often hailed as a “cure-all” type substance. In terms of TIA, ginkgo is known to strengthen blood vessels and arteries, in addition to improving circulation and moderating blood pressure, all of which lowers your chances of transient ischemic attacks and traditional strokes.

A Final Word of Warning: Again, while transient ischemic attacks only have temporary symptoms that often subside within minutes, they are serious warning signs that should not be ignored. These remedies are intended to be complementary options to formal medical attention. If you experience the symptoms of a TIA, go to the doctor immediately – better safe than sorry!

References
  1. http://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMsb020987
  2. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/113/10/e409.short
  3. https://acpjc.acponline.org/Content/116/2/issue/ACPJC-1992-116-2-040.htm
  4. http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/45/7/2160.short
  5. http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/217254
  6. http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/33/6/1656.short
  7. http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/35/5/1230.short
  8. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00265950
  9. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0033062009000401
  10. http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/39/12/3389.short

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