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'Mini stroke' may mean 20% drop in life expectancy

Thursday November 10, 2011
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Having a transient ischemic attack, or "mini stroke," can reduce a person's life expectancy by 20%, according to a new study.

"People experiencing a TIA won't die from it, but they will have a high risk of early stroke and also an increased risk of future problems that may reduce life expectancy," study author Melina Gattellari, PhD, a professor and researcher in Australia, said in a news release. "Our findings suggest that patients and doctors should be careful to intensely manage lifestyle and medical risk factors for years after a transient ischemic attack."

The researchers said their statistical analysis, which appears on the website of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, is the first to comprehensively quantify the impact of hospital-diagnosed TIA on life expectancy.

The researchers identified 22,157 adults hospitalized with a TIA from July 2000 to June 2007 in New South Wales, Australia, and tracked their medical records for a minimum two years (median 4.1 years). At one year after hospitalization, 91.5% of TIA patients were still living, compared to 95% expected survival in the general population. At five years, survival of TIA patients was 13.2% lower than expected — 67.2% were still alive, compared to an expected survival of 77.4%.

By the end of the study, at the 9-year mark, survival of TIA patients was 20% lower than expected.

Increasing age was associated with an increasing risk of death compared to the matched population. TIA had only minimal effect on patients younger than 50, but significantly reduced life expectancy in those older than 65. Compared to TIA patients younger than 50, relative risk of death for patients ages 75 to 84 was 7.77 times higher; it was 11.02 times higher for those 85 and older.

"We thought the reverse may be true — that survival rates in older TIA patients would be more like other older people, who, although not affected by TIA, are affected by other conditions that may influence their survival," Gattellari said. "But even a distant history of TIA is a major determinant of prognosis. Certainly, the risks faced by TIA patients go well beyond their early stroke risk."

In general, adults with a history of TIA can maximize their chances of living a long life by adopting healthy lifestyle habits, such as exercising daily, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking and eating healthy, Gattellari said.

To read a study summary and access the study via subscription or purchase, visit http://bit.ly/uaWXI8.


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