One in three adults has experienced 'warning stroke' symptoms, survey shows

Here are the symptoms you should be looking out for.


Strokes can be scary things, causing brain damage that can result in everything from permanent speech problems to partial paralysis. But the havoc that a stroke can wreak on a body isn't always obvious or extreme. In fact, more of us have likely experienced a stroke than we realize: Nearly one in three American adults has experienced the symptoms of a warning, or "mini," stroke in their lifetime, according to a new report from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association (AHA and ASA).

In a May 2017 survey conducted by the AHA and ASA, 35 percent of the more than 2,000 respondents reported experiencing at least one symptom of a warning stroke in the past. Known more technically as a transient ischemic attack or TIA, "warning strokes" are exactly like regular strokes in that they occur when blood flow to brain is blocked or cut off in some way — the only difference is that the blockage is transient, or temporary, and symptoms typically last anywhere from a few minutes to 24 hours.

So, how can you tell if you're having a TIA? According to the AHA and ASA, symptoms are much like those of a regular stroke and include the following:

  • Drooping or numbness of the face
  • Weakness of the face, arms, or legs (especially on one side of the body)
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding
  • Sudden vision problems
  • Sudden difficulty walking or balancing
  • Sudden severe headache

If you or your loved one do experience one of the above symptoms, the AHA and ASA recommend calling 911 immediately — even if the symptoms disappear quickly, as they might with a TIA. If you're diagnosed with a stroke, doctors can treat you quickly and, potentially, save your life; if you're diagnosed with a TIA, doctors can set you up with a prevention plan that will help protect you from having a full-blown stroke in the future.

"Ignoring any stroke sign could be a deadly mistake," said Mitch Elkind, MD, chair of the ASA, in a press release. "Only a formal medical diagnosis with brain imaging can determine whether you're having a TIA or a stroke. If you or someone you know experiences a stroke warning sign that comes on suddenly — whether it goes away or not — call 911 right away to improve chances of an accurate diagnosis, treatment, and recovery."

American Heart Association