Mini-strokes or transient ischemic attacks (TIA’S) are important to be recognized early on because these episodes constitute a medical emergency according to Dr. Steven Reisman, a New York City Cardiologist. Dr. Reisman was interviewed on Inside Edition on June 18, 2014 regarding a 49 year old woman who recorded on her smartphone a video showing her facial movements to help doctors diagnose a mini-stroke which was later confirmed by MRI.
Several studies have shown that in the prevention of stroke it is important to be evaluated for cardiovascular risk factors such as elevated lipids, hypertension or high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, and the buildup of plaque in the arteries. In addition, one study has shown that an adherence to a “low-risk” lifestyle can dramatically decrease the risk of stroke. The more factors one can adhere to the lower the risk. These factors include; not smoking, proper diet, exercise, optimal body weight as measured by body mass index, and moderate alcohol consumption.
One type of simple evaluation that emergency medical personnel utilize in their evaluation for a possible stroke is the three part pre-hospital stroke test. The first test is abnormal in this evaluation if the individual is asked to show their teeth or smile and one side of the face droops or it does not move as well as the other side. In the second test the individual is asked to close their eyes and extend both arms straight out, with the palms up for ten seconds. This test is abnormal if one of the arms does not move or drifts down compared to the other arm. The third test is an evaluation for abnormal speech where one might ask the patient to say “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. This is abnormal if the individual slurs their words or uses the wrong words or if the individual is unable to speak.
One of the most important risk factors for stroke is the presence of hypertension (high blood pressure). Hypertension is frequently silent and without symptoms and one can be evaluated for high blood pressure with a complete check up with their physician. According to Dr. Reisman, a Manhattan Cardiologist and Director of the New York Cardiac Diagnostic Center, the most effective way to screen for the risk of stroke is to perform a complete evaluation including blood tests, physical examination and in certain individuals carotid ultrasound to see if there is already plaque in the blood vessels supplying the brain.