What are the Dangers of Mini-strokes?

Jogging couple

Most people know a major stroke can significantly impair thinking and language skills. You may not be aware that other types of cerebrovascular disease (disorders affecting blood vessels in the brain), can go unrecognized for years and also cause substantial mental impairment.

A Gradual Process

This more gradual, less severe decline in thinking skills, referred to as Vascular Cognitive Impairment-No Dementia (VaCIND), can result from blockages or narrowing of smaller blood vessels feeding the brain. More severe blockage (atherosclerosis) of narrower blood vessels feeding the brain may result in small strokes, known as lacunar infarcts.

Over time, with an accumulation of multiple small strokes, or decreased blood flow to the brain, substantial impairment can emerge because the brain is deprived of oxygen and nutrition, the fuel it requires for optimal functioning.

Those affected become slower at mental operations, interpreting visual information, retrieving information from memory, solving problems, and reasoning. Although the changes in their thinking may be subtle and mild, they can progress to a point where daily functioning is impacted.

Bottom Line: Take Mini-strokes Seriously

Cerebrovascular disease in the absence of a full-blown stroke can have negative consequences on your cognitive and neurological status and needs to be taken seriously, monitored, and managed appropriately. Furthermore, cerebrovascular disease elevates the risk of developing dementia later in life.

It's important to note that damage to the vascular system and the risk of developing cerebrovascular does not start during the senior years. Lifestyle choices at earlier stages of life impact your risk for cerebrovascular disease and stroke.

Who is at Risk?

Individuals who fail to exercise regularly, smokers, those who are alcohol-dependent, or individuals with high or excessively low blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, obesity, blockage of the major heart arteries, or prior heart attacks all carry a greater risk of developing cerebrovascular disease.

7 steps to reduce your risk of stroke

  • Monitor your blood pressure.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Keep blood sugar under control.
  • Monitor your cholesterol throughout your life.
  • Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol intake.
  • Get adequate exercise.
  • See your doctor to treat underlying diseases that could play a major role in preventing cerebrovascular disease and cognitive decline.
author name

Jon E. Bentz, PhD

Jon E. Bentz, PhD, ABN, is a clinical neuropsychologist with Lancaster General Health Physicians Neuropsychology. A graduate of East Carolina University and Virginia Tech, Dr. Bentz has worked in the rehabilitation field for more than 30 years, providing assessment and treatment of cognitive and behavioral disorders resulting from stroke, traumatic brain injury, and other dementias and neurological disorders.

Call: 717-544-3172

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The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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