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Mini Stroke can Shorten Life Expectancy: December 16, 2011

Frank Sullivan suffered a massive stroke in his sleep.

“My wife found me in bed and called 911 and they came and took me to the hospital.”

He was left with lasting damage.

“My speech is definitely different than it used to be, obviously,” says Frank.

Frank is keenly aware of the signs and symptoms of a stroke, and is reinforcing healthy habits to avert having one in the future.

“Despite everything that’s happened I’m still strong and can do just about anything that I want to do,” says Frank.

Research was clear that once someone has suffered a stroke, they’re more likely to have a second. Now new studies find that so-called mini strokes also have long-term implications.

“The more fancy term is TIA or transient ischemic attack, those tend to be very short spells; a matter of minutes,” says Dr. Ross Levine, medical director of vascular neurology at Lee Memorial Health System.

Conventional wisdom was that the TIA or mini stroke was a warning of sorts. After it was over, people would return to normal, knowing they were at risk for a major stroke. But the latest research shows there may be lasting damage.

“There are worries, and there are many people researching, that there is a permanent damage, microscopically, there can be permanent changes on scans,” says Dr. Levine.

In addition to changes found in brain scans, studies done on mini stroke survivors suggest their life expectancy may be shortened. Five years after their TIA, survival rate was 13% lower than the general population. By nine years, the survival rate was 20% lower than expected.

“When you look scientifically, and you look as far down as the microscopic level, and then as far down at the electron microscopic level, there are models of transient ischemic spells with permanent changes,” says Dr. Levine.
People with a history of stroke or TIAs could benefit from Frank’s example in adopting a healthy lifestyle.