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Heart Health

How to recognize and respond to a "warning" stroke

A transient ischemic attack means you're at risk for a full-blown stroke. Seek emergency care, even if your symptoms are short-lived.

By , Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

graphic showing how to recognize the signs of a stroke, using the acronym BE FAST as described in the article

A temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain, known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA), can cause a range of unsettling symptoms, including slurred speech or arm weakness. The symptoms appear suddenly but usually last less than five minutes, which is why TIAs are often ignored or missed.

Although TIAs are often referred to as "ministrokes," the term "warning stroke" is actually more accurate. A TIA can be a harbinger of a future stroke, which has similar symptoms (see "Spot a stroke") but can leave you permanently disabled.

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About the Author

photo of Julie Corliss

Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

Julie Corliss is the executive editor of the Harvard Heart Letter. Before working at Harvard, she was a medical writer and editor at HealthNews, a consumer newsletter affiliated with The New England Journal of Medicine. She … See Full Bio
View all posts by Julie Corliss

About the Reviewer

photo of Christopher P. Cannon, MD

Christopher P. Cannon, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Heart Letter; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing

Dr. Christopher P. Cannon is editor in chief of the Harvard Heart Letter. He is a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and senior physician in the Preventive Cardiology section of the Cardiovascular Division at … See Full Bio
View all posts by Christopher P. Cannon, MD

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No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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