Rehabilitation For Mini Strokes: It's About Time


Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) An Indiana University researcher, Mareike Van Puymbroeck, has put together a rehabilitation program for those who have suffered mini strokes, technically known as 'Transient Ischemic Attacks' or TIA.  She reported the results of her program during a press conference at the American Heart Association's International Stroke Conference 2010, which officially started today and lasts through February 26.

"This is a health issue but it's also a policy issue," said Van Puymbroeck, an assistant professor in Indiana University's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. "There needs to be greater access to rehabilitation after TIA in order to prevent future strokes."

You betcha'. TIAs aren't called mini strokes for nothing.  The most common cause of TIA is the very same as the most common cause of stroke: blood clots blocking blood flow to the brain.  The difference is that TIAs usually resolve within minutes or a few hours. The classification of the incident is all a matter of how long the blockage lasts; if the disturbance doesn't clear up within 24 hours, you've had a stroke, not a TIA.

According to research published in the New Zealand Medical Journal in April of 2009,  the risk of  TIA sufferers experiencing  a full blown stroke within 7 days may be as high as 12 percent, and at 90 days, as much as 20 percent.  Further, half of the strokes occur within the first 48 hours of the TIA, the research indicated. 

That knowledge should be a strong indication that rehabilitation is necessary for a TIA patient to attempt to avoid a stroke and even that high-risk patients be put on a stroke avoidance program. But no post-TIA rehabilitation regimen exists in the U.S., according to Van Puymbroeck's press release.

Exercise helps prevent TIAs.: Image via BetterHealthResearch.comExercise helps prevent TIAs.: Image via Hopefully, that's about to change. Van Puymbroeck's study is following 14 first-time TIA sufferers, ages 44 - 85, who agreed to participate in a second phase version of a well-accepted cardiac rehabilitation program and started within the first 6 weeks after they experienced TIA. 

The program is conducted on an outpatient basis at Bloomington Hospital in Bloomington, Ind., and involves monitored aerobic exercise, resistance training, and health education. After 6 weeks of the program, the volunteers showed significant improvements in blood pressure and physical function, specifically:

  • Systolic blood pressure was reduced by 8.71 millimeters of Mercury (mm Hg ) and diastolic blood pressure reduced by 7.18 mm Hg. Other research has found that a change in systolic blood pressure of 5 mm Hg leads to a 14 percent decrease in stroke risk while a 5 mm Hg reduction in diastolic blood pressure leads to a 42 percent reduction in stroke risk.
  • Gait speed and endurance improved significantly. This can be associated with increased community function and physical activity, which could lead to improved health in general.

Further follow-up will be conducted after 6 months and one year of involvement in the program.

If you have high blood pressure, see a doctor.  High blood pressure is the number one risk for stroke, TIA, and heart attack.  If you suspect you are having or had a TIA, go to the emergency room as soon as possible, even if the TIA has resolved. Get diagnosed so you know what caused the TIA.

TIA's are warning signs of impending stroke; the sooner you can begin to make changes in your lifestyle, the better are your chances for avoiding the big one.


Resources:EurekAlert, New Zealand Medical Journal, WebMD