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Odd Enough ​1 in 3 Americans may have had a mini stroke—and 97% did nothing about it

​Learn the symptoms so you won’t be one of them.

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(Photograph by Getty Images)

Strokes aren’t only a health concern for older guys—in fact, the number of cases in younger men are spiking, as we recently reported.

Prompt treatment is vital to preventing long-term damage, but lots of people don’t get treatment. Now, a new survey sheds further light on the scope of the problem: An alarming number of Americans may have had a mini-stroke—but didn’t recognize it, a new survey from the American Heart Association suggests.

After surveying 2,040 adults, the researchers discovered that 35 percent of them experienced at least one sign of a mini-stroke, officially called a transient ischemic attack, or TIA. TIAs are caused by a temporary blockage in the brain, and generally don’t cause any permanent damage, but they can herald a full-blown stroke in the near future.

Here are the most common symptoms of mini-stroke that people experienced, lasting from a few minutes up until 24 hours:

  • 20 percent reported a sudden and unexplained headache

  • 14 percent reported sudden and unexplained trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination

  • 10 percent reported sudden and unexplained numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body

  • 10 percent reported sudden and unexplained trouble seeing in one or both eyes

  • 5 percent reported sudden and unexplained confusion, trouble speaking or understanding

After experiencing these symptoms, only 3 percent of the people called 911, the survey found. More commonly, they simply waited until the symptoms went away, rested, or took some kind of medicine.

Not a smart strategy: The same signs of mini-stroke can point to a full-blown stroke, too.

“Ignoring any stroke sign could be a deadly mistake,” said American Stroke Association chairman Mitch Elkind, M.D., in a news release. “Only a formal medical diagnosis with brain imaging can determine whether you’re having a TIA or a stroke.”

Swift diagnosis of stroke is important for treatment and recovery, and quick detection of mini-stroke is vital, too. Because you’re at higher risk of a full-blown stroke, your doctor will work with you on prevention factors, which can include lifestyle changes or anti-clotting drugs.

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