Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. Stroke is the leading cause of severe disability and the third leading cause of death in America.

MedStar Franklin Square neurologist Maria Ionita, MD, warns of another, often unheeded medical condition. "It's called a transient ischemic attack, or TIA, more commonly referred to as a ministroke," she explains. "Ministrokes don't cause permanent brain injury, but we need to take them seriously because nearly a third of people who have them will have a stroke sometime in the future."


The most common type of stroke occurs when a blood vessel to the brain is blocked. When this happens, the part of the brain that cannot get blood and oxygen begins to die. It's like a heart attack that affects the brain.

A ministroke, on the other hand, occurs when a blood clot causes a blockage that is only temporary. This causes stroke symptoms that appear suddenly and quickly disappear, usually within minutes.

Stroke like symptoms signal an emergency, according to Dr. Ionita. "If you experience a sudden onset of symptoms, even if for just a few minutes, call 911 to get help right away," she says. Fortunately, people who've had a ministroke can help ward off another, or even a major stroke, by making lifestyle changes and getting medical treatment.

To decrease your risk of a ministroke or stroke, Dr. Ionita recommends taking these steps:

  1. Manage your blood pressure.
  2. Watch your diet.
  3. Control your blood sugar.
  4. If you smoke, break the habit.

To prevent a stroke or TIA, Dr. Ionita notes that in addition to lifestyle changes, you may benefit from one or more medications, including blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol medications as well as aspirin, or other anticlotting drugs.

When every minute counts, you can rely on MedStar Franklin Square to be there for you if you experience a stroke or ministroke. As a certified Primary Stroke Center, we have an Acute Stroke Team that includes a board-certified neurologist who is available around the clock to evaluate and treat patients with stroke.

Know the Symptoms

TIA and stroke symptoms come on suddenly and include:

  • Weakness, numbness, tingling in your face, arm, or leg
  • Loss of coordination
  • Slurred speech, trouble speaking or problems understanding others
  • Falling or loss of balance
  • Sudden, severe headache of unknown cause, especially when associated with another stroke symptom
  • Loss of vision or double vision
  • Dizziness or vertigo (spinning sensation)

Contact Information

For a referral to a neurologist, please call 443-777-7900.

For information about weight management, diabetic nutritional counseling, or starting a medical fitness program, contact our Wellness Services Program at 443-777-8430.

For help to stop smoking today, call 443-777-7900.