What is a Transient Ischemic Attack?

Contributed by: Dennis Fortier, President, Medical Care Corporation

Transient ischemic attacks are common.   They are known as TIA's or mini-strokes, and they produce temporary symptoms of numbness, tingling, and sometimes, weakness or difficulty speaking.  They are caused by a temporary lack of blood flow to the brain and, as the term "transient" suggests, they have generally been considered to be temporary events, with no lasting effect.

According to a recent publication in Stroke, the journal of the American Heart Association,  these events may not be as transient as previously believed. Researchers from the University of British Columbia performed transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) on subjects who had suffered a recent TIA and found interesting results.  These subjects' brain cells were more difficult to stimulate, as is necessary in learning and recalling information, than the brain cells in subjects with healthy brains. 

TIA's have long been considered a warning sign that more serious, future strokes could be more likely.  But this new information suggests that they are more than a warning sign of future problems; they might be a part of a current problem with long-term effects on brain health.

For perspective, this was a small study involving only 13 subjects, and the results have not yet been reproduced in other peer-reviewed publications.  It is merely the first step, and perhaps an important one, in the scientific process by which we discover and validate new knowledge.

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  1. This I know: the cummulative effect of enough TIA is severe loss of memory and recall. The downhill slide into dementia--and should I call it "fear"?--steals your loved one away, as certainly as a major stroke might paralyze another, or cause speech impediment, in another. My mother is 97. She lived independently until her 93rd birthday, likely suffering TIA that last year alone, and many since--she talks alright, she's frail, but mainly she may, or may not, any given day or hour recall who we, her daughters, are, and what she does "clearly" recall is quite a scramble of her past.

  2. Wow amazing and scary, is really scary that the are some many diseases that can kill you without noticing you and also the stress of think about how to know if you are healthy.