Mini-Stroke At 25: What To Learn From Hailey Bieber

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Debunking the myth that stroke affects only the elderly, 25-year-old Hailey Bieber recently opened up about the mini-stroke she suffered in March.

Premier Health Now asked vascular neurologist Steve Arkin, MD, to explain what causes mini-strokes, or transient ischemic attacks (TIA), like the one Bieber experienced, and what to do if you have symptoms.

In a video on YouTube, Bieber describes the unusual sensations she felt in her arm and fingers. These symptoms, which landed her in the hospital, occurred while she ate breakfast with her husband, Justin. The signs of her mini-stroke progressed to one side of her face, making it droop. And she couldn’t speak.

While confirming Bieber’s symptoms were indicative of a stroke, Dr. Arkin explained that TIAs are the result of small blood clots that we all develop.

“We form and dissolve clots in our body all the time. That balance usually leads to no problems,” he says. “But in some people, if a clot gets big enough, it can travel and block an artery to the extent that it affects how the brain functions. It can result in tingling or weakness for a period of time and difficulty with speech and vision.”

Dr. Arkin said Bieber’s clot likely formed as a result of the following circumstances, which can each contribute to a TIA:

  • She had recently flown to Paris and back. “Long flights can result in clots in your legs that can travel to your lungs and brain. We recommend you get up and walk around during the flight to prevent these clots from forming.”
  • She takes birth control pills. “The estrogen in these pills actually increases the risk of clot formation.”
  • She had been diagnosed with COVID. “We’ve found that up to two percent of people who get COVID have strokes due to a change in their blood vessels that enable a clot to lodge more readily.”
  • She had a hole in her heart, called a patent foramen ovale (PFO) that allowed the clot to bypass her lungs and go to her brain.

‘It’s a 911 Call For Sure!’

Although TIA symptoms are temporary with no lasting damage, “it’s a 911 call for sure,” says Dr. Arkin. When the symptoms first appear, you don’t know if you’re having a TIA or a major stroke. “Get medical help right away, even if the symptoms don’t last.” Even if it turns out to be a TIA, learning why it happened and getting appropriate treatment will reduce the chance of having a stroke in the future.

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