5 Ways to Stop a TIA From Becoming a Full-Fledged Stroke

Strokes can cause permanent neurological deficits, while TIAs (transient ischemic attacks) or mini strokes, which are very similar to strokes, only cause temporary symptoms.

In some instances, TIAs or other forewarning signs precede strokes. If you have experienced a TIA, this is a warning that is it time to actively manage your stroke risk, which is the best way to prevent a stroke. However, in many instances, a stroke can happen suddenly, without any warning at all - often resulting in completely unforeseen life changing consequences and significant disability.

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What Makes a TIA Different From a Stroke? 

A TIA, like a stroke, can involve any part of the brain. And like a stroke, a TIA causes neurological symptoms that correspond the affected region of the brain, ranging from visual changes to weakness, to confusion to speech and language problems.

The big difference between a TIA and a stroke is that a TIA resolves quickly before any permanent brain damage or neurological symptoms can occur. This happens because a TIA is a temporary interruption of blood flow to a part of the brain and sometimes, the blood supply can be restored quickly.

A stroke, in contrast to a TIA, is an interruption of blood flow to a region of the brain that lasts long enough for brain tissue damage to occur. This type of damage leaves brain cells unable to function normally. A stroke can be large or small. In fact, a stroke can be small enough or insignificant enough that it isn't even noticed, resulting in a silent stroke.

In the first few minutes, it is almost impossible to predict whether a neurological event will turn out to be a stroke or a TIA. But there are a few ways to modify the outcome. 

Can You Prevent a TIA from Becoming a Stroke?

If you have any risk factors for stroke, including age over 60, heart disease, high blood pressure, blood problems, high cholesterol, diabetes or smoking, you should become familiar with the ways that you can recognize a stroke or a TIA.

There are, in fact, a few things that you can do to reduce the chances that a TIA will progress to a stroke. A few of these require long-term planning, and a few require on-the-spot action:

1. Don't Ignore Mini Strokes.

Quite often a stroke survivor may recall unusual fleeting neurological symptoms in the days, weeks or months prior to the stroke. Patients usually say, 'I thought it would go away,' or 'I just brushed it off because it got better,' or even, 'I didn't know what to make of it, so I didn’t want to ask for trouble.' Many times, these unusual symptoms were, in fact, TIAs. 

It is best never to ignore something that could be a mini-stroke. Risk factor management has been proven to prevent stroke, even after TIAs have occurred.

2. Take Medication as Scheduled

If you are prescribed medication, it is vital to take it as directed. When you skip anti-hypertensive medications, heart medicine, and blood thinners - your body compensates in ways that are harmful, possibly becoming even more prone to a stroke than before. If you do not like your medication side effects, tell your healthcare provider so that he or she can adjust your dose or prescribe a different medication.

3. Stay Physically Active

Research suggests that physical activity and regular exercise may play a role in preventing stroke. People who exercise or engage in physically active leisure activities have a lower risk of stroke, and exercise may also help prevent secondary strokes in those who have already had a stroke. Always talk to your healthcare provider before you begin a new exercise regimen.

4. Be Proactive

Many stroke sufferers have known friends or family who have had TIAs. Wishful thinking often leads people to treat all neurological symptoms as TIAs. 'I will call my healthcare provider in the morning,' or 'I will mention it when I see my healthcare providernext week.' A TIA requires immediate medical attention and can't wait for a more convenient time. It is a very risky gamble to wager on neurological symptoms turning out to be a TIA instead of a stroke.

5. Get Rapid Treatment

Some of the most powerful stroke treatments, such as TPA, must be administered within a short window of time. If you receive emergency treatment, your symptoms can resolve, and you have a much better chance of avoiding the permanent effects of a stroke. This can essentially make the outcome of what might have been a serious stroke substantially better.

A Word From Verywell

If you are at risk of stroke, quickly recognizing a stroke or a TIA can save your life- and prevent permanent neurological handicaps. Sometimes, fast action can effectively manage a TIA to alter the outcome and prevent a stroke.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Coutts SB. Diagnosis and management of transient ischemic attackContinuum (Minneap Minn). 2017;23(1, Cerebrovascular Disease):82–92. doi:10.1212/CON.0000000000000424

  2. Hill MD, Coutts SB. Preventing stroke after transient ischemic attackCMAJ. 2011;183(10):1127–1128. doi:10.1503/cmaj.110704

  3. Prior PL, Suskin N. Exercise for stroke preventionStroke Vasc Neurol. 2018;3(2):59–68. doi:10.1136/svn-2018-000155

  4. American Stroke Association. TIA (transient ischemic attack).

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stroke treatment; 2017.

Additional Reading

By Heidi Moawad, MD
Heidi Moawad is a neurologist and expert in the field of brain health and neurological disorders. Dr. Moawad regularly writes and edits health and career content for medical books and publications.