Santos Rodriguez woke up in March and couldn't move his left arm. By the time he got to the hospital, he could barely speak.
"I know what I was trying to say but I couldn't pronounce it. I told the nurse 'I'm trying to say things to you and you're not understanding me.'"
The doctor ran a few tests, then sent him home. But later that night - he felt intense pains in his head. He went to a different hospital where his doctor found he had suffered three strokes.
He was just 46 - part of a growing trend.
"If patients start having their strokes younger they will be left with many more years of having a disability," says Dr. Aviva Lubin of Lenox Hill Hospital.
New research finds that in 2005, 19% of stroke patients were under the age of 55 - up from 13% a decade earlier.
Doctors think the reason for this trend...has to do with the increase in risk factors. More and more young people are obese and have diabetes and high cholesterol.
Rodriguez didn't know he was diabetic until after his stroke. Now he's getting it under control with diet and insulin.
With a wife and five kids to support, the stroke was a frightening reality check.
"It reminds you of how things can be taken away from you."
Seven months later, Rodriguez is slowly regaining strength in his arm and mentally he's nearly back to normal. He says he's committed to a healthier lifestyle so he can be strong for his family for many years to come.
During the ten year period covered in the study, the average age of stroke victims fell from 71 to 69.@