Transient Ischemic Attack Causes

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) involves a temporary obstruction of blood flow to the brain. Unlike a stroke, which is associated with similar symptoms and causes, it usually resolves quickly and before significant tissue damage to the brain occurs.

The carotid arteries are responsible for the provision of oxygen via blood flow to the brain and a blockage of these may cause a TIA. This obstruction may be due to:

  • A blood clot in the bloodstream
  • Blood vessel injury
  • Narrowing of the blood vessels

There are various risk factors that are associated with an increased probability of both stroke and transient ischemic attack.

Medical History

Several health conditions are strongly linked to the health flow of blood in the body and play a role in causing TIA. The most notable of these conditions include:

  • Hypertension
  • Atrial Fibrillation
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Hypercholesterolemia
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity

High blood pressure is an indicative factor for many health conditions that involve the bloodstream, including TIA. The increased blood flow and pressure on the vessels can lead to clot formation, particularly in areas also affected by atherosclerosis.

Atrial fibrillation can lead to the formation of clots in the blood vessels between the heart and the brain. The irregular heartbeat can cause these clots to form and cause TIA to occur.

Areas of the circulation that are affected by atherosclerotic plaques and narrowing of the vessels are more likely to create blood clots in the bloodstream. These clots can then travel through the carotid arteries to the brain and have the potential to cause TIA if they become temporarily lodged to obstruct the blood flow.

Family History

Family history of disease related to transient ischemic attack is also an important indicative factor of the risk of an individual. In particular, a family history of stroke or TIA episodes increases the risk of being affected.

Other related conditions that may lead to stroke or TIA are also important to consider. Family history of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and atrial fibrillation may also increase the risk of TIA.

Age and Ethnicity

As humans age, the arteries of humans naturally become narrower and the risk of other conditions that may cause TIA also increases. As a result, elderly people are more like to experience a transient ischemic attack, with those over the age of 55 at a significantly heightened risk.

Ethnicity is also an important factor. African Americans have a markedly higher risk than other population groups, which is thought to be a result of the increased prevalence of hypertension and diabetes. Similarly, populations of south Asian, African or Caribbean descent are also associated with an increased risk of TIA.

Diet and Lifestyle

Another causative factor is the lifestyle choices of individuals, particularly in respect to diet and daily activities. This is strongly linked to obesity and other health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

A diet that lacks fresh fruit and vegetables but is high in fat, sugar and salt is known to increase the risk of health conditions related to the blood flow in the body. Additionally, excessive alcohol intake is thought to be a causative factor. Regular smokers are more likely to experience a transient ischemic attack and are also more likely to suffer from other related health conditions.

A sedentary lifestyle with insufficient physical activity is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and TIA. It is recommended that individuals are physically active for at least 30 minutes each day.  


Further Reading

Last Updated: Jun 17, 2023

Yolanda Smith

Written by

Yolanda Smith

Yolanda graduated with a Bachelor of Pharmacy at the University of South Australia and has experience working in both Australia and Italy. She is passionate about how medicine, diet and lifestyle affect our health and enjoys helping people understand this. In her spare time she loves to explore the world and learn about new cultures and languages.


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