Also known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA), a mini-stroke only lasts a few minutes and doesn’t usually result in permanent damage. Still, TIAs can be followed by more severe strokes, and because of their short duration, symptoms such as confusion, tingling sensations, and dizziness may be overlooked or ignored. However, it can help to know what typically causes mini-strokes in the elderly so steps can be taken to prevent them from occurring.
Blood ClotsWhile some more serious strokes occur when arteries carrying blood to the brain burst, mini-strokes are likely to be caused by blood clots that form in arteries leading to the brain. The World Heart Federation says blood clots of this nature may be prevented by:
- Maintaining a normal weight
- Getting regular physical exercise
- Not smoking
High Blood PressureChronic hypertension (high blood pressure) is another leading cause of mini-strokes in the elderly. However, this is often a reversible problem. In a Johns Hopkins University study of nearly a thousand older women with hypertension, 40 percent of the participants were able to stop taking blood pressure medications by making healthy lifestyle adjustments.
AtherosclerosisAtherosclerosis is a condition that causes blood vessels to narrow because of a buildup of a waxy substance called plaque in or around the brain. This buildup can cause blood clots that contribute to mini-strokes. Regular exercise and healthy eating are two of the commonly recommended ways to prevent atherosclerosis. Even basic forms of exercise, such as walking at a steady pace or exercising in water, can be helpful. A home caregiver can help your loved one plan nutritious meals and exercise safely. In-home care experts are available to provide high-quality care to seniors on an as-needed basis. From assistance with mobility and exercise to providing transportation to the doctor’s office and social events, there are a variety of ways professional caregivers can help your aging loved one continue to live independently.
Carotid Artery Disease (CAD)Carotid artery disease (CAD) is caused by plaque building up inside blood vessels in the neck that carry blood to the brain. If enough plaque accumulates in the internal carotid artery, the brain receives less oxygenated blood, which can then contribute to a mini-stroke. Your loved one may be able to prevent or slow the progression of CAD by:
- Limiting salt and alcohol intake
- Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables
- Managing chronic health issues
- Limiting cholesterol and unhealthy fat consumption
Type 2 Diabetes & Excess WeightOlder adults with type 2 diabetes are more likely to be overweight, and both diabetes and obesity are among the top risk factors for strokes and mini-strokes. If your loved one is diabetic and not within his or her normal weight range, he or she might benefit from:
- Carefully monitoring blood sugar levels
- Taking medications as directed
- Making healthy lifestyle adjustments
- Attending regular physical examinations
Other Risk FactorsYou should be aware of certain additional risk factors that could increase your loved one’s odds of having mini-strokes. These risk factors include:
- Family history of TIAs or “regular” strokes
- Advanced age
- Gender—men have slightly more mini-strokes than women, but women have a higher overall stroke fatality rate
- Sickle cell anemia or a history of heart disease