TIA and Minor Stroke

Messages for others about transient ischaemic attack (TIA)

The people we interviewed wanted to pass on what they had learned from their experiences to other people. One of the key things that came out of the interviews was that many people hadn’t recognised their symptoms as being those of TIA or minor stroke and so may not have got help as quickly as they might have done (see ‘Symptoms’, ‘Seeking help – routes to care’ and ‘Delay in seeking help’).

The overwhelming message that people wanted to pass on to others was to go to the GP, call an ambulance or go straight to the emergency department if you don’t feel right and not to ignore symptoms. Rosemary’s advice was that it’s best to call for help if you don’t know what’s wrong, and not to panic. Her husband Brian (Interview 08), who had worked in the ambulance service for many years said “paramedics would prefer to come out on a call where eventually they were not required, than not be called and something serious happen, which could have been prevented.
Some of the symptoms of TIA or minor stroke such as speech problems, disorientation and dizziness can make it difficult for people to communicate well with the medical staff during their assessment or treatment.

Looking back several people realised that they hadn’t asked the doctor about things they were unsure about, and their advice was that it was important to ask questions, or have somebody with you who would remember what had been said later on. One woman said she found it helpful to take a small digital recorder to the consultation so that she could listen again to what the consultant had told her later on. A few people found that it was difficult to get doctors to listen to them and sometimes symptoms were misdiagnosed. Their advice to others was to keep pressing for a diagnosis.

Looking back several people felt that they had experienced symptoms that they had ignored or not realised were significant during the time before their TIA or minor stroke occurred, and that it could be useful to keep a diary and write down anything unusual that happened so that you could tell the doctor about them.
The people we interviewed had lots of advice to offer about how to cope after having a TIA or minor stroke. Although it can feel very upsetting at the time, most people said that things got back to normal gradually. Although being told not to drive for four to six weeks was difficult for some people most people managed to work out ways round it. Over time people got used to taking the medication they were prescribed, and to making the kind of lifestyle changes that would reduce their risk of any further episodes.

Having a TIA or minor stroke made people think about the things that were important in their lives and they spoke about a whole range of things they had done to improve their chances of a healthy future. These included slowing down and avoiding stressful situations, taking care of yourself and eating healthily, learning more about blood pressure and controlling it, following medical advice and ensuring you take the medication prescribed, and to stay positive and enjoy life.

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Last reviewed June 2017.
Last updated August 2013


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