Frankie Muniz Mini-Stroke: What Causes TIA in Young People?

Actor Frankie Muniz suffered from a mini stroke – what’s that mean? Image by Tom Sorensen

Malcom in the Middle star Frankie Muniz is in the news, after suffering a mini-stroke – but isn’t he too young for a stroke of any kind?

A stroke is usually associated with people who are past their middle age and in those who have heart disease.

Even this milder form of stroke, the mini stroke, or a transient ischemic attack, is also commonly known to occur in older people rather than in the young.

When we hear of young, healthy individuals like Frankie Munoz, who is under 30 years old, suffering from a mini stroke, we wonder what could have caused it, and how it can be prevented.

What is a Mini Stroke?

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is commonly called a mini stroke because it is mild and its effects are temporary.

Compared to a full-blown stroke, where permanent weakness or paralysis of some part of the body can result, a mini stroke resolves within a few minutes to a day without leaving any deficits in function.

However, a mini stroke may be a warning sign of an impending stroke, which can occur within a few days or months, depending on many factors, such as the presence of an underlying disorder and availability of treatment.

What Causes a Mini Stroke?

A transient ischemic attack occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is blocked, or stops for a short period, resulting in a temporary deprivation of oxygen and glucose to the brain cells. This leads to symptoms that resemble those of a stroke, but which lasts only for several minutes or hours, since brain cells are not permanently damaged or destroyed.
A temporary interruption of the blood supply to the brain may be caused by any of the following:

  • A blood clot forms in one of the small arteries of the brain.
  • A blood clot from somewhere in the body is thrown off and travels to the brain.
  • Blood vessels in the brain are injured.
  • The small blood vessels within the brain or leading to the brain are narrowed.

Factors that can increase a young person’s risk for a mini stroke include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Family history of strokes
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Race or ethnicity (African Americans have a greater risk for stroke)

Our brains need oxygen to function properly. Image by Camazine

Symptoms of a Mini Stroke

The actor told Good Morning America, “I couldn’t say words. I thought I was saying them! My fiance, was looking at me like I was speaking a foreign language.” Symptoms of a mini stroke are similar to an evolving stroke, such as dizziness, slurring of speech, weakness of one side of the body, vision changes, confusion, and numbness in one side of the body. These may last only for a few minutes or hours and may resolve within a day without leaving permanent changes in body function.

Mini Stroke Outlook

No permanent damage to the brain results from TIAs, however the goal of treatment is to prevent a stroke, which can occur within a few days or several months. People who experience these symptoms possess risk factors which may lead to another mini stroke or a true stroke, and should seek immediate medical consultation to prevent any complications.


PubMed Health. Transient Ischemic Attack. (2012). Accessed December 5, 2012.

Wedro, B. Transient Ischemic Attack. (2012). eMedicinehealth. Accessed December 5, 2012.

Oldenburg, A. Frankie Muniz has mini stroke. (2012). USA Today. Accessed December 5, 2012.

© Copyright 2012 Angelica Samarista-Giron, Ph.D., All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Science
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  1. says

    CADASIL is a rare genetic disorder that causes multiple strokes in adults, even young adults, often without cardiovascular risk factors. CADASIL often progresses to cause cognitive impairment and dementia. The symptoms of CADASIL result from damage of various small blood vessels, especially those within the brain. The age of onset, severity, specific symptoms and disease progression varies greatly from one person to another, even among members of the same family. CADASIL is an acronym that stands for:

    (C)erebral – relating to the brain (A)utosomal (D)ominant – a form of inheritance in which one copy of an abnormal gene is necessary for the development of a disorder.

    (A)rteriopathy – disease of the small arteries (blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart).

    (S)ubcortical – relating to a specific area of the deep brain that is involved in higher functioning (e.g., voluntary movements, reasoning, memory).

    (I)nfarcts – tissue loss in the brain caused by lack of oxygen to the brain, which occurs when blood flow in the small arteries is blocked or abnormal.

    (L)eukoencephalopathy – destruction of the myelin, an oily substance that covers and protects nerve fibers in the central nervous system.

    Note: The above information about CADASIL has been extracted from the CADASIL Abstract posted on the NORD – National Organization for Rare DIsorders website at

  2. David Dansereau says

    What is the most frequent source of cardioembolic stroke in young adults?

    This question (and the answer below) appeared in today’s Resident e-Bulletin / Teaching Topics from the
    PLs include the following for your readers which you did not mention in your article:

    source: New England Journal of Medicine

    Patent foramen ovale (PFO) is the most frequent cardioembolic risk factor for stroke in young adults. Others include congenital heart disease, infectious nonbacterial thrombotic endocarditis, rheumatic valvular heart disease, cardiac surgery or catheter intervention, arrhythmia (e.g., atrial fibrillation or sick sinus syndrome), cardiac tumors (e.g., atrial myxoma or papillary fibroelastoma), recent myocardial infarction, and dilated cardiomyopathy.
    For more:

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