Strokes often occur without warning. In some cases, warning signs such as severe headache or transient ischemic attack (TIA) may occur before a stroke occurs.
A stroke occurs when blood flow is blocked or interrupted to some part of the brain. This prevents brain cells from getting the oxygen and nutrients they need to survive.
A stroke is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. Recognizing the symptoms of a stroke can help you get help as soon as possible.
Although stroke symptoms may appear suddenly, in some cases there may be warning signs that should not be ignored.
Can there be warning signs days before a stroke?
It’s not always possible to predict a stroke, but some people may have warning signs that require attention.
Severe or unusual headache
Although this is not the case for all strokes, in some cases a headache can be the first symptom of a stroke.
A 2020 study of 550 adults from a trusted source found that 15% of respondents had headaches before an ischemic stroke. A sentinel headache is defined as a headache that occurs before the event, in this case 1 week before the stroke.
The study authors noted that these headaches were more severe or different from previous headaches.
Additionally, these headaches usually begin within 7 days of the stroke and continue until the symptoms of the stroke appear. Participants who had headaches before their stroke were found to be more likely to develop atrial fibrillation, a type of arrhythmia, than participants in a control group who did not have a stroke.
A guard’s headache is considered a symptom of an impending aneurysm. It’s important to take unusual or severe headaches seriously, as they may predict a more serious health event.
Transient ischemic attack (TIA)
Another warning sign of a stroke is a TIA, also known as a “minister stroke.” A TIA occurs when the blood supply to a part of the brain is interrupted for a short time. Although the symptoms of a TIA can mimic those of a stroke, the symptoms usually go away within an hour and rarely cause permanent damage. In some cases, symptoms can last up to 24 hours.
Although symptoms of a TIA usually don’t last long, it’s important to seek medical attention even after symptoms go away. A TIA usually goes away quickly, but it could be a sign of a more serious stroke down the road. In fact, it is estimated that about one-third of people who have a TIA will have a more severe stroke in the future.
Interestingly, recent studies have confirmed that while having a TIA may be a precursor to stroke, the number of people who experience an acute stroke within 90 days of a TIA has decreased in recent years. This suggests that preventive measures after TIA are effective in preventing stroke.