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Transient Ischemic Attack: Care Instructions

Blood flow blocked to an area of the brain for a short time

Overview

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is when blood flow to a part of your brain is blocked for a short time. A TIA causes stroke symptoms that can last for at least a few minutes. Stroke symptoms include sudden weakness or loss of movement in a part of your body, confusion, vision changes, trouble speaking, and trouble walking or balancing. But unlike a stroke, a TIA doesn't cause lasting brain damage.

TIAs are often warning signs of a stroke. Some people who have a TIA may have a stroke in the future. If you have symptoms of a stroke, call for emergency help right away. Quick treatment can help limit damage to the brain and increase the chance of recovery.

You can take steps to help prevent a stroke. These steps include managing health problems that raise your risk, taking medicine that prevents blood clots, and having a heart-healthy lifestyle. This lifestyle includes being active, eating healthy foods, staying at a healthy weight, and not smoking.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Medicines

  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • If you take a blood thinner, such as aspirin, be sure you get instructions about how to take your medicine safely. Blood thinners can cause serious bleeding problems.
  • Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you are not able to take your medicines for any reason.
  • Do not take any over-the-counter medicines or natural health products without talking to your doctor first.
  • If you use hormonal birth control or hormone therapy for menopause, talk to your doctor. Ask if these are right for you. They may raise the risk of stroke in some people.

Heart-healthy lifestyle

  • Do not smoke. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines.
  • Be active. If your doctor recommends it, get more exercise. Walking is a good choice. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk every day. You also may want to swim, bike, or do other activities. Try to do at least 2½ hours of moderate activity each week. It is fine to be active in blocks of 10 minutes or more throughout your day and week.
  • Eat heart-healthy foods. These include vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, lean meat, fish, and whole grains. Limit sodium and sugar.
  • Stay at a healthy weight. Lose weight if you need to.
  • Limit alcohol. Ask your doctor how much, if any, is safe for you.

Staying healthy

  • Manage other health problems that raise your risk of stroke. These include atrial fibrillation, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
  • If you think you may have a problem with alcohol or drug use, talk to your doctor.
  • Avoid infections such as COVID-19, colds, and influenza (flu). Get the flu vaccine every year. Get a pneumococcal vaccine shot. If you have had one before, ask your doctor whether you need another dose. Stay up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have symptoms of a stroke. These may include:
    • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
    • Sudden vision changes.
    • Sudden trouble speaking.
    • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
    • Sudden problems with walking or balance.
    • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.
    Call 911 even if these symptoms go away in a few minutes.
  • You feel like you are having another TIA.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.