Sign Up Now For
Our FREE E-mail Newsletter

In each issue of HEALTHbeat:

  • Get trusted advice from the doctors at Harvard Medical School
  • Learn tips for living a healthy lifestyle
  • Stay up-to-date on the latest developments in health
  • Receive special offers on health books and reports
  • Plus, receive your FREE Bonus Report, Living to 100: What's the secret?

[ Maybe Later ] [ No Thanks ]

Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School
Learn How

New Releases

You can't buy good health but you can buy good health information. Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School:

Treat a mini-stroke as seriously as a big one, from the March 2014 Harvard Women's Health Watch

The term mini-stroke is often used to describe transient ischemic attack (TIA), a type of stroke. The "mini" has led to a lot of confusion about the true severity of this condition, according to the March 2014 Harvard Women's Health Watch.

"Because of what the term implies, everybody thinks it's just a tiny stroke. The truth is, the symptoms can be pretty severe," says Dr. Natalia Rost, associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and director of the Acute Stroke Service at Massachusetts General Hospital.

A TIA and a stroke are essentially the same thing—an interruption in blood flow to part of the brain. The interruption is caused by a clot blocking a blood vessel or a break in a blood vessel followed by bleeding into the brain. The difference between a TIA and a stroke is that the interruption in a TIA—and the symptoms it causes—are temporary. Yet a TIA can leave lasting damage, and it can pave the way for a true stroke. About a third of people who experience a TIA go on to have a major stroke within a year.

TIA symptoms mirror those of a full-blown stroke. They include sudden

  • numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg—especially on one side of the body
  • trouble speaking or understanding
  • confusion
  • difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
  • loss of balance or coordination

A person having one or more of these symptoms can't know whether she or he is having a TIA or a stroke. And it doesn't really matter—get to the hospital right away regardless. Stroke-stopping treatment usually needs to be started within the first three hours after symptoms start. Once that window closes, treatment options are limited.

Women tend to wait longer than men to get medical help when they're having stroke symptoms. Some don't realize they are having a stroke. Others live alone and have trouble finding someone who can help them, or they don't want to bother anyone.

"When in doubt, go to an emergency room," Dr. Rost advises. "Even though the symptoms resolve, there might be damage to the brain, so you need to see a neurologist."

Read the full-length article: "Mini-stroke: What should you do?"

Also in this issue of the Harvard Women's Health Watch

  • Mini-stroke: What should you do?
  • Ask the doctor: Why am I carrying more of my weight around my middle?
  • Ask the doctor: Can flaxseed and red yeast rice supplements lower cholesterol?
  • Why you need a bone density scan
  • Staying active when it's hard to move
  • Tea: Drink to Your Health?
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements: Do you need them?
  • New treatments for incontinence
  • Research we're watching: New blood pressure guidelines released
  • Research we're watching: Lose a few pounds to help your heart
  • Research we're watching: Drug cuts breast cancer risk by more than half
  • Research we're watching: Older women with heart disease more likely to have memory problems

More Harvard Health News »

About Harvard Health Publications

Harvard Health Publications publishes four monthly newsletters--Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Women's Health Watch, Harvard Men's Health Watch, and Harvard Heart Letter--as well as more than 50 special health reports and books drawing on the expertise of the 8,000 faculty physicians at Harvard Medical School and its world-famous affiliated hospitals.