Specific Things That May Lead to a TIA
Cigarette smoking has been linked to the buildup of fatty substances in the carotid artery, which is the main neck artery that supplies blood to the brain. Keep in mind that:
- Nicotine raises blood pressure
- Carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke reduces the amount of oxygen your blood can carry to the brain
- Cigarette smoke makes your blood thicker and more likely to clot.
Because of these combined effects, smoking increases the risk for a TIA.
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance in the blood. High cholesterol does not cause damage for days or weeks, but over years. Gradually, high blood cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is narrowing and hardening of arteries due to the buildup on your artery walls of cholesterol (along with other fats and debris). This buildup of cholesterol is called plaque. Atherosclerosis is one of the main TIA causes.
(Click Causes of Transient Ischemic Attacks for more information.)
When the atria quiver instead of contracting normally, more blood often gets left behind instead of being pumped into the ventricles. When blood pools like this inside the atria, it can trigger the formation of unwanted clots. These clots can break off, travel throughout your blood vessels, and then become stuck -- decreasing the amount of blood that flows through the vessel.
Other Heart Diseases
Besides atrial fibrillation, other common heart disorders can result in blood clots that may break loose and block vessels in or leading to the brain. These common heart disorders can include:
- Coronary artery disease (CAD), which most people refer to as simply heart disease
- Heart valve defects, such as mitral valve stenosis
- Irregular heart rhythms (other than atrial fibrillation)
- Congestive heart failure.
Diabetes affects the body's ability to use sugar, or glucose and it also causes destructive changes in the blood vessels throughout the body, including the brain.