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Don’t Ignore these Warning Signs – Your Health Matters!

Dr. Leslee B. Cochrane
Dr. Leslee B. Cochrane

Dr. Leslee B. Cochrane, MD, Executive Medical Director for  Hospice of the Valley contributed this article to the current Wildomar Senior Assisted Living newsletter:

You are driving down the freeway in heavy traffic and glance down for just a second to change the radio station when all of a sudden you look up and – BRAKE LIGHTS! You jam on the brakes just in time avoid a collision and you pray that the person driving behind you stops in time as well. Had you been paying more careful attention you probably would have noticed warning signs that the traffic was slowing and could have taken extra precautions to minimize the chance of a collision.

In the same way that there are reliable warning signs of traffic trouble ahead, your body sometimes sends you “warning signs” that there is a potential stroke down the road. The term TIA stands for “transient ischemic attack” and refers to a condition in which the blood flow to the brain is temporarily blocked. TIA’s are sometimes referred to as “mini-strokes” because they produce the same symptoms as a stroke; but then resolve within 1-2 hours. Unlike a stroke where the blockage is permanent, a TIA is caused by a temporary blockage and there is usually minimal permanent residual damage.

Here are some common “warning signs” to be aware of:

  • Weakness, numbness or tingling (usually affecting one side of the body)
  • Confusion, loss of coordination or balance
  • Difficulty speaking or swallowing
  • Sudden loss or blurring of vision

WARNING: Ignoring TIA’s can be hazardous to your health. 10% of patients who have a TIA will have a stroke within three months and half of those patients will have their stroke within 48 hours of the TIA. The most common cause of a TIA is a blood clot and there are several risk factors for TIA’s including high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, obesity and elevated cholesterol. Because it is impossible to distinguish a TIA from a stroke at the onset, you should call 911 and seek emergency evaluation at the first sign of symptoms. While there are some treatments available for strokes, a better strategy is risk factor reduction to reduce or prevent the chances of having a stroke.

If you have had a TIA, see your doctor immediately, examine your risk factors and see what you can do to reduce your risk of a stroke. You have probably heard it said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and “a mind is a terrible thing to waste”. I would combine those two proverbs as follows: If you ignore your TIA then your brain may go MIA (missing in action).

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