Ministrokes (TIAs) Are Often Warnings that “Real” Strokes Are About to Happen

By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.

When I was 13, my grandmother died from a massive stroke after becoming upset over a malfunctioning oil heater. I never forgot the incident and throughout my medical career always put great emphasis on preventing strokes because they can kill or permanently disable you in a flash.

For that reason I take TIAs very seriously. TIA means transient ischemic attack – in common language, a ministroke caused by a blood clot in the arteries supplying the brain with vital blood. TIAs usually last a few minutes (but can be longer) before the clot becomes dissolved by anti-clotting agents in the body.

Typical Ministroke Symptoms

  • Sudden numbness, weakness, or paralysis of the face, arms or legs – usually experienced on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion and difficulty speaking, slurred or garbled speech, or difficulty understanding others.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes, or double vision.
  • Sudden difficulty walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination.
  • Sudden headache.

Symptoms are similar to a stroke, but temporary. No permanent damage occurs in the brain. Still, a ministroke may be a prelude to a possible stroke in the future, where the clot is not rapidly dissolved, and brain damage occurs. The American Stroke Association calls it a “warning stroke” because a third of the 50,000 people who experience a ministroke each year have an actual stroke, often within days or weeks.

Ministrokes and strokes are both medical emergencies. Call 9-1-1 if symptoms occur. Your life may depend on fast action, diagnosis, and treatment.

Ministrokes most commonly occur over the age 60. However, 10 to 14 percent of ministrokes and ischemic strokes – the most common type in which the carotid arteries leading to the brain become blocked by plaque – occur in young adults, even teenagers.

Other Major Ministroke Risk Factors

Besides getting older, other major factors that increase your risk of stroke include:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Arterial disease – inflammation and plaque within the cardiovascular system, often in the carotid arteries that deliver blood to the brain
  • Atrial fibrillation – a heart irregularity that can lead to clot formation
  • Diabetes
  • A family history of stroke

Ministroke Prevention and Treatment

Treatment for ministroke depends on the results of a thorough medical examination and diagnostic testing, and often includes drugs or carotid surgery to reduce the risk of a full-blown stroke.

Although death rates have declined over the years, the human and economic toll of stroke, according to the American Heart Association, is still “staggering.” More than three-quarters of a million Americans are affected each year, and some 134,000 die. Stroke is a leading cause of functional disability.

Despite all that modern medicine can throw at stroke, doctors agree that the best medicine is prevention. For that purpose I would like to share some tips that you may not hear from conventional doctors.

1. The Right Diet

Prevention starts with eating a heart-healthy diet, which equates to a brain-friendly diet. That means an emphasis on organic fruits and vegetables, fish, and whole grain cereals – along the lines of my Pan-Asian Modified Mediterranean Diet (PAMM). Minimize sugar and refined carbohydrate intake, not only for the weight factor but also because these are primary, largely-ignored sources of arterial inflammation.

2. Reduce Hypertension by Reducing Stress

If stress is the cause, as it often is, you must find ways to defuse the stress. Techniques such as meditation, yoga, regular physical activity, and psychological counseling can help. Stress is a heart and brain killer. People with persistently high blood pressure may need medication, if natural approaches don’t work. Helpful supplements include the following:

  • Co-enzyme Q 10 (CoQ10), 100-200 milligrams daily
  • Magnesium (400-600 milligrams)
  • Potassium (as high as 4 grams in food/supplements)
  • Fish or squid oil (1-2 grams)
  • Nattokinase (50 milligrams twice a day)

3. Earthing (Grounding)

Connecting your body to the natural, gentle electric energy on the surface of the Earth is a surprisingly unique way to help thin blood, enhance the anti-clotting properties of red blood cells, moderate arrhythmias, normalize blood pressure, improve sleep, and boost circulation. You can connect by being barefoot outdoors or in contact with conductive sheets and mats inside your home. Refer to this article I’ve written or the Earthing book that I co-authored. The Earthing benefits are huge, and potentially lifesaving.

4. Carotid Imaging

Have your doctor listen to your carotid arteries with a stethoscope. If any sounds of obstruction are picked up, your doctor will order an ultrasound analysis to identify plaque formation or abnormal thickening of the arterial tissue, both signs of atherosclerosis (arterial disease). Without imaging proof, you may not know that the carotids are in trouble. There are often no symptoms. The first symptom could be a TIA or, worse, a full-blown stroke.


© 2015, 2016 HeartMD Institute. All rights reserved.

Leave a Reply


  1. tamara

    on October 29, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    [quote]I am a 63 year old female. Had a stroke 2 years ago. Work in fast paced medical setting. Have many of your books. I’m on statin,cholesterol med,water pill,baby aspirin. I need to loose weight . I’m becoming frustrated that my BP spikes after work & headaches regularly. I’ve read many of your books. Wish I could get another Dr. evaluation but I’m sure it would be th same. Any good constructive help would be much appreciated !!
    Thank You. Linda Berg[/quote]

  2. Lou G

    on October 29, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    My dear 91 year old Mum has just been diagnosed with vascular dementia. She had a mild TIA behind her eye a few years ago and I have given her Serrapeptase, Nattokinase, she sleeps on a grounding mat, Hawthorn and Olive leaf for high blood pressure, plant sterols to reduce cholesterol, I take her for a walk at least once a day, she is hypothyroid but on levothyroxine and is gluten free. I also give her resveratrol and Ubiquinol, Gamme E Tocopherols, Magnesium Threonate, Curcumin, Probiotics, Well actually a lot of supplements and she is well but just has short term memory problems. Are there any special supplements that will keep her vascular system healthy or even repair? She is on no bp drugs or statins and no other drugs.

  3. anna

    on February 23, 2017 at 2:03 pm

    wow, the supplements that you are giving your mom are so good. you are doing a great and wonderful thing for her by supporting her beloved life. im thankful for what you are doing for your mom. may God bless both of you with peace. how about a low-fat diet, with most of the fats only coming from pure healthy medicinal fats (fish oil and olive oil maybe?) a very plant based diet (continue gluten free), to help with bloodflow. also how about vitamin b12, it can help with blood flow.

  4. anna

    on February 23, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    also, i would have her always carry with her Cayenne pepper, as i believe that it can stop a stroke or heart attack by helping to dissolve the blood clot, you can search online for testimonies about this. maybe a small rebounder trampoline, even if she cant jump, if she can just barely bounce up and down it will be better than being stationary. apple cider vinegar and lemon juice

  5. Fran

    on November 13, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    I had a slight stroke and I have a little difficulty swallowing liquids. Is this common. Also have a hoarse voice.

  6. HeartMD Editor

    on November 28, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    Hi Fran,

    Unfortunately, these symptoms can be common after a stroke. The good news is, that many times patients will have just about full recovery after time, so stay positive.

  7. Allison

    on January 17, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    Anna, your 2-23-17 advice to go “low fat” w/ diet is Absolutely Incorrect, & even dangerous. I’m sure that you mean well, but the “Low Fat” diet “benefits” have been completely debunked, as This Site by Stephen Sinatra agrees! (Other experts to Google are: Neurologist David Perlmutter, M.D.; Mark Hyman, M.D.; Chris Kresser, L.aC. Of course, avoid trans fats & industrial seed oils (corn, soybean, margarine, Canola (yep), & Many more. (Just Google industrial seed oils & Don’t use them at all). Stay below the smoke point so you don’t create free radicals using these healthy oils/ fats.: Coconut oil, Avocado oil, Olive oil. Also, the fats from anything Wild Caught (like salmon) or grass/ pasture fed/ organic (beef, eggs, butter…) are healthy. These Same foods, raised conventionally, are not healthy. The brain consists primarily of fat, we need it. The low fat, low cholesterol,”healthy high carb” doctrine in place for for decades now, is Why strokes, heart disease, diabetes & Alzheimer’s have all increased at an alarming rate. Don’t take my word for it; Google all of this, & please educate yourself.

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