Harvard Heart Letter

Don't ignore "mild" strokes

Seeking care can prevent big strokes in the future.

Many people at risk for heart attack are also at higher risk for stroke, since the underlying disease process—atherosclerosis—can block blood flow to the brain, just as it does in the heart. Although many people know that chest pain is a sign of insufficient blood flow to the heart, they may not recognize the symptoms of inadequate blood flow to the brain. As a result, they can have a mild stroke and not know it.

Strokes that cause mild symptoms still damage brain cells. The impact of one mild stroke may not be evident, depending on the area of the brain in which it occurs. But when a person has several mild strokes, the resulting damage may be harmful and irreversible. That's why stroke experts encourage anyone who experiences the symptoms of stroke—no matter how mild the symptoms seem—to call 911 immediately.

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