Health Buzz: 'Mini Strokes' May Shorten Life

Plus, 5 symptoms of a stroke, and 5 ways to prevent one.

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Study: 'Mini Strokes' Cut Life Expectancy By 20 Percent

Even though it may only last a couple of hours, a "mini stroke," or transient ischemic attack (TIA), can hasten death, according to a new study. Researchers monitored 22,000 adults hospitalized for TIA—which affects up to half a million people a year in the U.S.—in New South Wales, Australia. After nine years, the patients were 20 percent less likely to be alive than adults of the same age and sex in the general population, researchers reported in Stroke. TIAs occur when blood flow to the brain stops briefly, triggering stroke-like symptoms for a couple of hours—things like sudden dizziness, muscle weakness, and reduced alertness.

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  • 5 Symptoms You Need to Know to Recognize a Stroke Immediately

    Stroke can present itself with a range of symptoms, but the consistent factor is that they come on suddenly, U.S. News reported in 2009. Call 911 immediately if you, or someone you're with, experience any of the following:

    1. Numbness or weakness, particularly on one side of the body. This can be in the face, an arm, or a leg. If someone you're with appears to be experiencing this, ask the person to smile, lift both arms, or move both legs, the National Stroke Association recommends. If one side of the body doesn't respond, it may be a sign of stroke.

    2. Confusion or trouble speaking. If a person is having difficulty talking or understanding, also known as aphasia, it could mean that blood is not getting to the area of the brain that controls language. Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence; slurred or strange speech could indicate trouble.

    3. Vision and perception problems. Stroke can diminish sight in one or both eyes or cause double vision. It can also lessen a person's ability to make sense of basic visual cues, like recognizing a face or familiar objects, say, or being unable to differentiate between a mirror image and the object being reflected. [Read more: 5 Symptoms You Need to Know to Recognize a Stroke Immediately.]

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    • Stroke Prevention: 5 Ways to Prevent a Brain Attack

      Lifestyle counts, and in stroke prevention, the sum of one's efforts appears to be greater than singular prevention elements, U.S. News reported in 2009. Consider these elements of reducing your likelihood of having a stroke:

      1. Quit smoking. Compared with nonsmokers, smokers on average have double the risk of ischemic stroke. And a study in the journal Stroke found a dose-response in female subjects, meaning that the more cigarettes a woman smoked per day, the higher her odds of suffering a stroke. Two packs per day boosted risk of stroke to nine times that of nonsmokers. The same study found that when subjects quit smoking, their risk of stroke returned to normal within two years.

      2. Get off the hormones, ladies. Hormone replacement therapy with estrogen, used to ease symptoms of menopause, have been found to significantly boost a woman's risk of stroke. And Tibolone, a synthetic HRT that mimics estrogen and the hormone progesterone, has been found to increase the risk of stroke in women older than 60. Also, smokers who take birth control pills are at far greater risk of stroke, blood clots, and heart attack than women on the pill who don't smoke. [Read more: Stroke Prevention: 5 Ways to Prevent a Brain Attack.]

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