Mini Stroke Symptoms In The Elderly: Causes and Treatments

A mini-stroke is also referred to as transient ischemic attack, abbreviated as TIA. A mini-stroke occurs when the supply of blood to the brain drops temporarily. When you are aware of the mini-stroke symptoms in the elderly, you will be better placed to get them to help urgently and possibly save their lives.

There are different conditions and events that can cause oxygen deprivation in the brain. The symptoms of TIA or mini-stroke are very much similar to those of full-blown stroke, even though they don’t last that long. Left side stroke indicates the side of the brain that has been affected and can know exactly where to start.

In the United States alone, half a million people experience a stroke every year. The symptoms that associate with TIA tends to fade very fast and so very many people do not seek any help once it happens. Around ten percent of people who suffer from mini-stroke suffer from a full stroke in three months.

This only shows how important it is to seek help as soon as you notice some of the signs that are associated with stroke. Getting to a hospital early could mean the difference between life and death.

By getting evaluation very fast and getting treatment as soon as symptoms are experienced in an emergency room or clinics that are designed to handle mini-stroke symptoms. This works well at minimizing the occurrence of a full-blown stroke. Mini-stroke recovery doesn’t take long.

Facts about mini-stroke

  • It occurs when some parts of the brain don’t receive the blood temporally.
  • Half a million Americans suffer from TIA every year.
  • It is important to get medical help so as to reduce the risks associated with stroke.
  • The main aim of treating mini-stroke is to ensure that no more occurrences are experienced.
  • The most common drug used to prevent the occurrence of a TIA is a medication that is anticoagulant called warfarin.

What it is

Semi stroke has the same symptoms as stroke, even though it only lasts for a couple of minutes and doesn’t have any permanent damage. When oxygen is not adequate in the brain, then a stroke can occur.

One of the reasons why the brain could be deprived of oxygen is because of a blood clot which causes a blockage for a while. Once the clot moves or breaks up, symptoms subside. There are many warnings that are given to people that a mini-stroke should never be ignored as it could lead to a full stroke.

The symptoms

Mini-stroke patients have different kinds of symptoms and it all depends on the side of the brain that has been affected. To better understand the symptoms, FAST is the acronym used. It means Face, Arms, Speech, and Time.

Face: you may notice the face fall one side because of paralysis of some of the facial muscles. You may notice that the eye or mouth can droop and the affected individual may not be able to smile as usual.

Arms: the individual may experience numbness or weakness in the arms and this can make it hard for them to raise their arms or to keep them in a raised position.

Speech: the individual may not be able to talk properly. Speech can be garbled or slurred.

Time: if any of the above symptoms are visible in an individual, you need to call for emergency services at that time without waiting.

It is important to know the signs and symptoms, especially when you live with someone who is within the high-risk group. This includes people who take care of the elderly or individuals who have diabetes or high blood pressure. The acronym FAST emphasizes how important it is to act fast and get medical help since it increases the chances of recovering.

Other symptoms

Other symptoms that could present themselves include:

 Loss of consciousness, especially when the case is severe

 Weakness, numbness, and paralysis on one body side

 A bad headache

 Difficulty in swallowing

 Difficulty following conversations or what people are saying

 Talking difficulties


If you experience any of the above symptoms or witness someone else going through them, you need to get help immediately. The signs are temporary and they may actually disappear in a day. You can even have them for only a couple of minutes.

Conditions that can simulate a mini-stroke

It can be very tricky to recognize a mini-stroke when it occurs. This is because there are other conditions that can actually come up with the same bodily effects and symptoms. Some of the issues that can simulate a mini-stroke include:

  • Minor seizures
  • Migraines
  • Low blood sugar

There is a way you can tell mini-stroke from all others and this is the fact that it affects only one part of your body like movement in one limb, sensation in one limb, or even vision. This is because a single blood vessel is blocked and the part of the brain that is affected reacts and the mini-stroke side effects are visible.

Usually, the conditions that mimic stroke like symptoms cause many neurological symptoms all over one’s body and this can include fainting and tingling. So as to ensure that mini-stroke doesn’t worsen, it is important to have an examination that could actually confirm that it is indeed the case.


We have already established that a mini-stroke occurs when the brain is deprived of oxygen.

Blood supply disruption

There are some tow main vessels that supply the brain with blood. These are the carotid arteries. The arteries then branch off into other small vessels. If a smaller blood vessel is blocked, thereby getting incapacitated to supply the brain with the much-needed blood that is rich in oxygen, a mini-stroke happens.


This causes narrowing of the arteries. The lining of blood vessels gets lined by fatty deposits and this causes the vessels to be less flexible, thickened, and hardened. This may make it very hard for the blood to flow well all over the body, the brain included.


A clot of blood can cause a disruption of blood supply to different parts of the brain. Such clots can come as a result from:

Heart conditions like arterial fibrillation or congestive heart muscle disease

Blood conditions such as sickle cell anemia or leukemia


An embolism can also lead to a mini-stroke. An embolism is a clot of blood that gets dislodged from another body part and travels all the way to the arteries supplying blood to the brain.

Internal bleeding/hemorrhage

If you experience some minor bleeding in your brain, then you could get a mini-stroke. It is important to note that this is a very rare occurrence. A mini-stroke test should be conducted immediately.

The risk factors

Risk factors associated with mini-stroke include family history, age, and ethnic origin. Some of these risk factors can be altered while others cannot. Some of the risk factors that can’t be changed include:

  • Family history: persons who have had a close relative affected by mini-stroke or full-blown stroke
  • Age: people who are above 55 years have a high risk of getting a mini-stroke
  • Sex: the male gender is at a higher risk of mini-stroke
  • Ethnic origin: people of an African ancestry, black, are at a greater risk

The factors that can be altered include:


High blood pressure or hypertension, which is a common issue among the seniors.

Cardiovascular disease: persons with such diseases are at a higher risk of getting a mini-stroke. This also includes things such as arrhythmia/abnormal heart rhythm. Heart failure, and a heart defect.

Carotid artery disease which develops once a vessel of blood that leads to the brain in the neck area is clogged.

PAD or the peripheral artery disease which occurs when vessels that carry blood to the legs and arms are clogged

Smoking: persons who smoke are in the high-risk group since they can develop different conditions and diseases and this can include mini-stroke

Sedentary lifestyle: people who are not physically active have a high-risk of mini-stroke. Most elderly persons don’t have the strength to do a lot. However, there are exercises that are designed for them.

Diabetes: if a person has diabetes, then they are at a high risk of atherosclerosis, which is the narrowing of the arteries because of fatty deposits build up. Diabetes is also common with the elderly.

Poor diet: people who take too much salt and fat that is of a bad quality are likely to develop stroke. As we age, it may not be possible to eat all the meals that were easy for us. As such, it is essential to come up with a healthy diet, ensuring that we come up with a diet that is easy to consume and making it balanced is the best way to go.

Cholesterol: if the cholesterol in the blood tends to be high, then the risks of mini-stroke are also high. Most elderly persons deal with this issue.

Homocysteine levels: this amino acid is produced by our bodies and it is a byproduct of meat consumption. When the levels are high in one’s blood, it can lead to thickening of the arteries and they can scar. This makes them vulnerable to clogs.

Bodyweight: people who have obesity have a greater risk of stroke.

Alcohol: people who consume a lot of alcohol and at a large quantity are also at risk.

Illegal drugs: Some drugs like cocaine and others raise the risks, especially when they are taken often.

Knowing the above risk factors can help you observe an elderly person even better. When taking care of an elderly person, you should have the health details as they can actually save a life.

Even for elderly people who are strong enough to take care of themselves, knowing all the risk factors can assist them in making adjustments in their daily lives and also stay alert for any signs of a mini-stroke. Calling for help can change everything. Understanding how serious stroke side effects are should encourage people to be more vigilant and live healthy lifestyles.

It is also important to note that most of the risk factors mentioned above affect seniors widely and also the effects of a stroke are more pronounced where seniors are concerned.


If you suspect that an elderly person has had a mini-stroke, it is important to get them immediate help so that tests can be done to identify the reason behind the attack. You should go to a doctor immediately for evaluation.

Remember that the mini-strokes don’t take that long and they can disappear by the time you get to the doctor. The elderly person should, therefore, be accompanied to the doctor so a narration of what was witnessed can be given.

Even without symptoms, the doctor can carry out some neurological examinations. This includes things like coordination, memory, and skills tests.

There are some questions that the doctor may ask include how long the episode lasted, the intensity of the symptoms, and how they were affected by the symptoms. The answers to the questions asked usually helps a doctor to give the correct diagnosis and rule out other conditions that may present themselves in the same manner.

If the diagnosis given is a mini – stroke, then the patient can be referred to a neurologist for more testing and exams. It is important to identify the factors that actually led to the issue for proper treatment.

The tests that can be given include:

  • Blood test for stroke to check one’s blood pressure, the ability of blood to clot and the patient’s cholesterol levels.
  • ECG or electrocardiogram, which records the rhythms and electrical activities of the heart.
  • Echocardiogram, which is a kind of ultrasound scan that deals with the heart’s pumping action.
  • Chest x-ray which allows the doctor to rule out any other conditions.
  • CT scans that can show aneurysms, abnormal vessels, and bleeding in the brain in 3-D.
  • MRI scan gives more details and can identify if there is any brain damage.
  • An ultrasound is done by waving a wand over arteries in the neck area so as to see if there is clotting or narrowing.

Preventing mini-strokes

As we get older, we need to take extra care of ourselves so as to avoid some of the ill effects that are brought about by aging. It is true that the elderly are within the high-risk group that could develop stroke. The elderly, as well as other age groups, should practice measures that could potentially reduce the occurrence of a mini-stroke.

mini stroke symptoms


Smoking: we have already identified smokers as being in the high-risk group. The elderly and even younger people should try as much as they can to stop smoking. There are so many other conditions that will be abated if a person is able to quit smoking successfully.

Diet: the elderly have limited diet items, especially because of issues with swallowing and chewing. As such, you should find a suitable soft food menu that includes all the food groups for a balanced diet.

Make sure that the elderly person and also other members of the family get to eat a lot of vegetables and fruits. Also include lean meat, poultry, fish, and whole grains. Stay away from junk foods and avoid Trans and saturated fats.

Sodium: it is essential that the intake of salt be reduced as much as possible. The elderly and other people within the high-risk group should not take salty foods.

Exercise: make sure you create an exercise schedule that is consistent. 30 minutes of workout at least 5 times each week can make a huge difference. If an elderly person wants to start working out, it is important that a doctor is consulted first.

Alcohol: there is also a great risk of mini-stroke for people who consume alcohol in huge amounts. Avoid alcohol altogether or make sure you stick to the limits that are recommended.

Body weight: if you have weight issues, you need to get it checked. You should work hard so as to lose weight. The body weight should be within normal levels so as to reduce the risks involved.

Make sure not to take any drugs that are illegal and keep diabetes checked by making use of the best medication. This aids in keeping mini-stroke and full-blown stroke at bay.

Sleep is also important. All people should have a high quality sleep for around 7 hours each day. It is also important to monitor how well the elderly sleep and deal with any sleep related issues as soon as they arise.

With the above information, you can easily tell that the best way to stay away from any kind of stroke is to maintain a very healthy lifestyle at all times. It is also important to treat all conditions that raise the risks involved. It’s important to know what to do when someone has a stroke.


Usually, treatment is done according to what has caused the mini-stroke in the first place. There are doctors who can prescribe medicines which will lower risks of developing clots or they can recommend angioplasty or surgery.

The medications

Anti-platelet drugs: these are drugs that make it less likely for the platelets to form clots which can cause blocked blood flow. Such drugs include aspirin and dipyridamole.

Clopidogrel: this is usually given if they have had very severe effects after taking aspirin or if they have had other cases of mini-stroke. It is also recommended for persons with the arterial disease.

Anticoagulants: These are drugs that need to be taken with great care because they interfere with different types of medications including herbs and over the counter drugs. You should speak to your doctor, especially when you are using other drugs before you use the anticoagulants. They include heparin and warfarin.


It may be necessary for someone to have surgery. This mini-stroke treatment involves the removal of the carotid artery lining where it is damaged. The blockage is also removed, thereby unclogging the artery. The operation is not recommended where the arteries are almost fully blocked. There are many risks involved with surgery and it should only be done by a professional.

Things to note about mini-stroke treatment

Hemorrhagic and ischemic strokes are caused by different things and therefore the treatment is different. Diagnosing the types of strokes is the best way to choose a treatment that will work and reduce the chances of developing brain damage. It is also important because if you use a method meant for one type of stroke for the other, the results can be very harmful.

Ischemic stroke

This is a kind of stroke that happens when the arteries are narrowed or blocked and so the treatment will focus on the restoration of blood flow within the brain. Treatment usually involves the administration of drugs that help to break the clots and also prevent the formation of others.

This is the case where aspirin can be administered. Plasminogen activator can also be administered as it is very good at breaking down clots. This should be injected a few hours after the signs were witnessed.

When there is an emergency, plasminogen can be administered into a brain artery directly or by physically removing the clit physically. So as to reduce mini-strokes risks, a surgeon can perform a carotid endarterectomy by opening the artery and taking out the plaque that could be the reason for a blockage.

Angioplasty can also be done so as to inflate balloons formed within an artery and then putting a mesh tube to ensure that narrowing does not happen again.

Hemorrhagic stroke

These are caused by leakage of blood into one’s brain. The treatment usually focuses on the control of bleeding and also reducing any pressure exerted on the brain. The treatment will involve giving drugs so as to eliminate or reduce pressure and control blood pressure. The drugs also help in preventing the constrictions of vessels and seizures.

It is in such cases that, surgery may be necessary so as to repair the blood vessel issue that could be present. Antiplatelet or anticoagulants should not be given in his kind of stroke.

The conclusion

Mini-strokes are very similar to ischemic strokes because in most cases, they happen due to blood clots or any other kind of clot within blood vessels. They are serious medical emergencies even though the effects can be temporary. They can be a forewarning of the possibility of a stroke in the near future. Right sided stroke symptoms can indicate the part of the brain that has been affected.

The silent stroke symptoms usually come about without warning. Elderly people are at very high risk of stroke and it is important for them to know the warning signs. Caregivers should also be equipped with knowledge about the possible signs and symptoms and exactly what to do in case of signs developing. Not ignoring signs regardless of how short-lived they are can save a life.

Written By
Kate Mallord is a health blogger. In the year 1988, She graduated from the University of Texas School of Medicine at San Antonio. Kate is an exemplary doctor. She has always devoted herself to caring for older adult patients. Read More