People who have mild strokes may feel like they’ve dodged a bullet since physical symptoms—blurred vision, difficulty speaking and weakness or numbness on one side of the body—usually disappear in a few minutes.

But whenever a stroke occurs, the brain sustains some damage. Recent research at the University of Montreal showed even mild damage can make it hard to concentrate and lead to depression, sleeplessness and other effects that may not be immediately apparent.

In the study, the researchers interviewed 177 patients within six weeks of having a mild stroke, also known as a transient ischemic attack, or TIA.

Almost 25 percent were diagnosed with clinical depression, and many were struggling with loss of appetite, insomnia, fatigue and, in some cases, suicidal thoughts.

In addition, patients said they worried about having another stroke and not being able to provide for their families—not an unreasonable fear. People who have had a mild stroke are five times more likely to have a more serious stroke in the following two years than the general population. Remember, if you notice any signs of a stroke in anyone young or old, seek immediate medical attention.

What to do after a mild stroke

  • Get emergency treatment right away. Even if symptoms subside, you should be evaluated at a hospital, since a mild stroke can be a signal that a potentially more serious stroke is on its way.
  • After being released from the hospital, follow up with your doctor to be screened for hidden problems.
  • Reduce your stroke risk by getting more exercise, controlling blood pressure and improving your diet.

Consider enrolling in a heart attack rehabilitation program. A study published in the November 2011 issue of Stroke found that people who had mild strokes reduced future stroke risk by participating in a cardiac rehabilitation program that emphasized education, smoking cessation and depression treatment, as well as eating a Mediterranean diet and exercising four times a week.

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