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Mini Stroke Symptoms in the Elderly: What to Look For

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Mini Strokes in Elderly: Causes, Symptoms, & What You Can Do to Prevent Them

Are you caring for a senior family member or loved one? If so, do you think you could identify symptoms of a mini stroke?

Being a caregiver is challenging work, but you must learn how to identify mini stroke symptoms in the elderly so you can seek medical attention immediately in case one occurs.

With the proper knowledge, you will be able to take action quickly.

In this article, you will learn:

  • Signs of mini stroke in elderly people

  • Risk factors of mini strokes in elderly people

  • Symptoms of small strokes in elderly people

Table of Contents

What Is a Mini Stroke?

A mini stroke is also known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA). Mini strokes are characterized by stroke-like symptoms that generally last less than 24 hours.

The symptoms of a mini stroke range from mild to severe and may include physical or cognitive impairment.

What Causes Mini Strokes in the Elderly?

Several factors can contribute to a mini stroke, but lack of blood supply to the brain cells is the most common.

Occasionally, a stroke or mini stroke can be caused by:

  • Conditions affecting the heart

  • Thickened blood disorders; or

  • Inflammatory diseases of the blood vessels

The Difference Between a Mini Stroke and a Stroke

The difference between a stroke and a mini stroke is never apparent until after the event.

While a stroke is often associated with permanent disabilities, a mini stroke has only temporary side effects. It's important to note that a mini stroke usually lasts a few minutes when compared with a stroke, which can last up to 24 hours.

There is also a type of stroke called a “silent stroke.” It is called a silent stroke when someone suffers a stroke without realizing it.

Silent strokes are usually discovered by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) while undergoing treatment for another condition — patients may not even remember experiencing symptoms.

Strokes that cause no obvious loss of function do so because other brain parts can compensate for the damaged one. These factors, however, are strongly linked to a more severe stroke later in life.

What Are the First Mini Stroke Symptoms in the Elderly?

A mini stroke presents similar symptoms to a stroke and includes:

  • Weakness or numbness of the face, arms, or legs — often only affecting one side of the body

  • Having difficulty understanding or speaking

  • Blindness that occurs suddenly in one or both eyes

  • Dizziness

  • Balance or coordination problems; and

  • Confusion

Mini strokes usually last only a few minutes, but the symptoms may persist for up to 24 hours.

Since the immediate signs and symptoms of mini stroke and stroke are identical, it's important to seek medical attention.

Elderly persons may have trouble explaining their symptoms, so caregivers should pay close attention to how their loved ones act.

Acting FAST When Experiencing Signs of a Mini Stroke

The acronym "FAST" can help determine whether or not someone is suffering from a stroke or mini-stroke.

The National Stroke Association suggests that you use FAST to help you remember what you should look for and what to do if a person develops any of these warning signs and symptoms:

  • F is for face — Ask the person to smile; if one side of the face droops, that is a warning sign.

  • A is for arms — When the person lifts both arms, if one arm drifts down or is difficult to move, that is a warning sign.

  • S is for speech — Ask the individual to repeat a simple phrase. If the speech is slurred or strange, it is a warning sign.

  • T is for time — As soon as a person exhibits any warning signs, it is time to call 911 and have them evaluated at a hospital emergency department for a stroke or mini-stroke.

Please note a person who is even slightly concerned about having a mini stroke should seek medical attention immediately.

Two Reasons Why It’s Important to NEVER Ignore Mini Stroke Symptoms in the Elderly

#1: Mini Strokes Are Typically a Warning Sign That a Stroke Is Coming

Mini strokes are considered "warning strokes," which cause stroke-like symptoms but no lasting damage.

A person who has had one or more mini strokes is almost ten times more likely to have a stroke than a person of the same age and gender who has not.

The earlier you recognize and treat mini strokes, the lower your chance of a major stroke.

Mini strokes are a medical emergency and should be immediately treated by a healthcare professional.

#2: Mini Strokes Increase Risk of Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia occurs when a blockage or reduced blood flow robs the brain of necessary oxygen and nutrients.

Stroke is the most common cause of vascular dementia, but mini strokes also increase the risk of developing vascular dementia.

The following symptoms may suddenly appear in patients with vascular dementia following a mini stroke:

  • Confusion

  • An inability to speak or concentrate

  • Vision loss

  • Having trouble solving problems or completing tasks

  • Having difficulty controlling bladder and bowels

  • Hallucinations

  • Being easily upset or agitated

In addition to having reduced ability to care for themselves, people with vascular dementia may have an increased risk of having a larger, more significant stroke

How Do You Know If You Have Had a Mini Stroke?

Even though mini strokes may not cause permanent damage at the time of occurrence, it is still crucial to seek medical attention, even if the symptoms do not seem severe.

To determine the possible cause of a mini stroke, computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging scan of the brain and carotid arteries is performed.

Risk Factors of Mini Strokes for the Elderly

Similar to many other conditions, the older you are, the greater your risk for having a mini stroke.

Even though stroke risk increases with age, certain risk factors are manageable:

  1. Hypertension — High blood pressure is one of the leading risk factors for mini strokes.

  2. High Cholesterol — Those with high cholesterol levels are at greater risk of developing blood clots, leading to mini strokes.

  3. Obesity — Being overweight or obese increases the risk of hypertension and mini strokes.

  4. Smoking — Tobacco products cause cardiovascular damage and increase the risk of mini strokes.

  5. Diabetes — Diabetes management can help seniors reduce their mini stroke risk.

  6. Inactive Lifestyle — Regular physical activity can prevent the risk of mini strokes and other health problems.

#1: Poor Nutrition

High blood pressure can weaken arteries throughout the body, and strokes are much more likely to occur when weakness occurs in the brain's arteries.

For this reason, controlling high blood pressure is so important, and nutrition can help with this.

You've probably heard that the foods you eat determine your health, and this is especially true for stroke prevention. For example, you can significantly lower your stroke risk by eating a heart-healthy diet and controlling your blood pressure.

Diets rich in healthy foods should be based on healthy food sources and should include:

  • Various fruits

  • Vegetables

  • Whole-grains

  • Dairy products with low-fat

  • Poultry and fish without skin

  • Nuts and legumes

Along with eating from these healthy food sources, you should limit:

  • Trans fats and saturated fats

  • Salt

  • Red meat (check labels and pick the leanest cuts)

  • Consumption of sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages

  • Tropical vegetable oils

#2: Sedentary Lifestyles

Sedentary lifestyles have been linked to an increased risk of mini strokes.

Individuals who spend eight hours or more sitting every day and are generally physically inactive are at seven times higher risk of having a stroke than those who spend fewer hours sitting and who exercise for at least 10 minutes every day.

Think of a body of water as an example. Still water tends to grow algae and become a cesspool, but running water stays fresh for a long time. Our body follows the same principle — when we stop moving, our cardiovascular system suffers.

Exercise gives the cardiovascular system the correct stimuli to allow growth and development. When the right stimuli are not offered, the blood vessels and arteries may become damaged, resulting in a mini stroke and other health concerns.

#3: Inability to Manage Stress

High blood pressure and an unhealthy diet can increase your stroke risk, but what about stress? A stressful day is unlikely to advance your stroke risk, but chronic, long-term stress can.

Researchers have found that people with …

  • High levels of stress

  • Depression; and

  • Hostility

… are significantly more likely to suffer a mini stroke.

It is essential to take steps to manage long-term stress. Stress and stroke risk can be reduced by:

  • Meditation

  • Relaxation techniques; and

  • Counseling

Senior Services of America: Our Seniors’ Health and Wellness Is Our Number One Priority

At Senior Services of America, our residents’ well-being is our top priority.

Getting to know each other in a community setting is a great way to build relationships. Our caregivers get to know our residents and their everyday routines, making it easier to catch subtle signs that something might be “off”.

Looking for more information on the services we offer to decide if one of our communities is the right fit for your loved one?

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Senior Services of America

800-689-0493

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