WellSpan Health stroke program coordinator Ruth Linde said the formula is simple when dealing with a stroke, which occurs when blood flow is restricted in a vessel and causes damage to brain tissue. Every minute a stroke goes untreated, 1.9 million neurons are lost.
Years of life can be erased in an instant. The risk of paralysis and death increases as does the risk of late-life dementia.
"The most important thing is to recognize it as an emergency and get to the hospital," Linde said.
People in their 20s might not know the signs and symptoms of strokes, since the misconception is the elderly are the only ones at risk. But strokes can happen at any age, Linde said, and more and more young people are suffering strokes or mini strokes.
Frankie Muniz made headlines this week when he revealed on Twitter that he suffered a "mini stroke" on Friday. At the time, he was 26. The former "Malcolm in the Middle" star and drummer of the York County band Kingsfoil turned 27 Wednesday.
In an interview with ABC News that aired Wednesday on "Good Morning America," Muniz said he felt strange while riding his motorcycle Friday. He said his body felt numb and his vision was blurry.
"Something wasn't right," he added. "I knew I did not feel right. I couldn't say words. My fiance, was looking at me like I was speaking a foreign language."
Linde, who doesn't treat Muniz, said he did the right thing by seeking treatment. She added that when patients come to York Hospital with symptoms, they undergo a brain scan to help doctors determine if the stroke is being caused by a blocked vessel or brain bleeding.
A majority of strokes are linked to atherosclerosis -- a buildup of plaque in arteries often due to a sedentary lifestyle or unhealthy diet. When it restricts a major artery, paralysis can occur. When it blocks a smaller artery, damage might be less serious and symptoms might subside.
Obesity, which has become an epidemic in America, might explain why more young people are suffering strokes, Linde said. Other risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure and stress.
And even though Muniz didn't have those risk factors, he still had a stroke.
"I'm still trying to make sense of it," Muniz told ABC Wednesday. "I've literally to this day never had a sip of alcohol ... I've never even smoked a cigarette."
Linde said some strokes are caused by clots that move from one part of the body to another. Clotting abnormalities or disorders, some of which might be congenital, can occur in people who seem relatively healthy.
Other times, it might not be immediately clear what caused the stroke. A transient ischemic attack or TIA-- not to be confused as a mini stroke -- is diagnosed when there is no evidence of brain damage.
The goal, Linde said, is to find what caused the issue and treat it to prevent future problems. Those who have mini strokes of TIAs have a higher risk of another stroke. To reduce risks, doctors might prescribe patients medication or recommend lifestyle changes.
On Friday, Muniz was supposed to return to the Kingsfoil tour, but he said on Twitter this week that he was relaxing and awaiting test results. Kingsfoil has gigs slated through the rest of the month, including a Dec. 29 stop at the Chameleon Club in Lancaster. Muniz is planning to marry his fiance, Elycia Marie Turnbow, next year.
In America, someone has a stroke every 45 seconds. Linde said doctors are still researching why that includes more young people.
"Strokes can hit at any age," she said, adding that even children can suffer stokes. "Everyone should know the stroke signs and symptoms. We need to take them seriously."
And because strokes are disorienting, bystander recognition is also important, she added. Since each second counts, everyone should be familiar with the signs of a stroke and dial 911 immediately if they see someone exhibiting that behavior.
Stroke warning signs:
--- Face drooping or numbness
--- Arm weakness or numbness
--- Speech difficulty or slurred speech
--- Sudden numbness or weakness of the leg
--- Sudden confusion or trouble understanding
--- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
--- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
--- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
More on Kingsfoil
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