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Transient Ischemic Attack: Care Instructions

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


A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is when blood flow to a part of your brain is blocked for a short time. A TIA is like a stroke but usually lasts only a few minutes. A TIA does not cause lasting brain damage. Any vision problems, slurred speech, or other symptoms usually go away in 10 to 20 minutes. But they may last for up to 24 hours.

TIAs are often warning signs of a stroke. Some people who have a TIA may have a stroke in the future. A stroke can cause symptoms like those of a TIA. But a stroke causes lasting damage to your brain.

You can take steps to help prevent a stroke. One thing you can do is get early treatment. If you have other new symptoms, or if your symptoms do not get better, go back to the emergency room or call your doctor or nurse call line right away. Getting treatment right away may prevent long-term brain damage caused by a stroke.

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?


  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call 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 call 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 take birth control pills or hormone therapy, talk to your doctor. Ask if these treatments are right for you.

Lifestyle changes

  • 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 fruits, vegetables, high-fibre foods, fish, lean meats, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, and soy products, and foods that are low in sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat.
  • 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 such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
  • Get the influenza (flu) vaccine every year.

When should you call for help?

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

  • You have new or worse 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 call line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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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.