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Monday, November 28, 2011

What is a mini-stroke?

The biggest thing I've learned recently is that a mini-stroke is a warning that a big stroke is on the way...

A stroke is kind of like a heart attack, only in the brain instead of the heart. Here are some scary pictures

When you have a mini-stroke, an artery is blocked or partially blocked, or else it starts to bleed a little bit. You get symptoms that are like stroke symptoms, but usually milder. Then, when the blockage clears, or when the bleeding stops, the symptoms go away on their own.  The symptoms depend on which part of the brain is affected.  So you could experience anything from trouble talking to unexplained dizzyness to a sudden severe headache.

It's scary.

If you've had a mini-stroke in one part of your brain -- the next time, it could be in another part of your brain. It could be a real stroke next time.

Even scarier -- if you've noticed one mini-stroke, you may already have had several. And never noticed them. You could keep on having them. And never notice. Except that slowly, silently, they can kill a few brain cells at a time. And silently steal away your memories and your ability to think.  This is called vascular dementia. Your doctor might talk about multi-infarct dementia, which is the most common form of vascular dementia.

If you are at immediate risk for another stroke, you probably want to take some immediate steps to decrease your risk.

Their are two main causes of stroke.
  • Ischemic stroke is cause by blockages, often blood clots, in small blood vessels, or in arteries already narrowed by plaque build-up
  • Hemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke is caused by blood vessels bursting and bleeding, often because they have been weakened by high blood pressure over a long time
To prevent ischemic strokes, you want to decrease inflammation immediately and continue to make choices that will slow down or even reverse narrowing of your arteries.  To prevent bleeding strokes, you want to get your blood pressure under control.

Sunshine, exercise, and a healthy diet will help with artery disease, blood pressure, and inflammation.