Ryan Seacrest gave American Idol fans a bit of a scare during the May 17th season finale. While introducing Idol contestant, Cynthia Erivo, Seacrest appeared to have word-finding difficulty/slurred speech and his right eye appeared to droop (some have reported that his left eye actually appeared to enlarge). See for yourself in the clip below:
Seacrest’s symptoms reverted by the end of the episode and he appeared to be back to his normal self when he announced Just Sam as the season’s winner. Still, the incident left many fans speculating that Seacrest had a stroke.
— gaby (@camilasballoon) May 18, 2020
Watching #AmericanIdol finale and I think Ryan Seacrest just had a stroke. No kidding.
— CUBS PLEASE PLAY IN 2020 🙏 (@CubsIn16) May 18, 2020
Seriously thought he had a mini stroke on live TV!!
— Heather Green (@skoopie713) May 18, 2020
A representative for Seacrest responded to the fan concerns the following day stating:
“Ryan did not have any kind of stroke last night…like many people right now, Ryan is adjusting to the new normal and finding work-home balance, with the added stress of having to put on live shows from home.”
As per his rep’s statement, Seacrest was absent from Monday’s episode of Live with Kelly and Ryan. Kelly Rippa’s husband, Mark Consuelos filled in. Seacrest returned to Live on Tuesday, thanking Mark for filling in and briefly addressing fan concerns for his health:
“I want to thank Mark for filling in yesterday. I appreciate that…He’s so good at it. And also [thank you for] the very kind well wishes for my exhaustion. Working round-the-clock so I got a day off to relax.”
Seacrest has indeed been working around the clock and has been doing so since 2017 when he took over the co-host spot on Live upping his total number of jobs to 7. His other positions include hosting On-Air with Ryan Seacrest, American Idol, and Dick Clark’s Rockin New Years Eve; producing E!’s Live from the Red Carpet; running a clothing line; and heading the Nonprofit charity the Ryan Seacrest Foundation. He also dabbles in screenwriting and voice acting.
Thanks to social distancing efforts related to the current COVID-19 pandemic necessitating filming shows from home—and sans a crew—it’s understandable that Seacrest is under immense stress these days (as we all are). Still, the concern for Ryan’s wellbeing was warranted.
The effects of prolonged stress on mental health are well known to the common public. These include increased levels of depression, anxiety as well as exacerbation of symptoms associated with Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, and Axis II personality disorders. The physical manifestations of prolonged stress—such as weight gain, headaches, rashes, and sleep disturbances—are not often even given a second thought…that is until one finds themselves or a family member hospitalized with a heart attack or stroke.
For Seacrest, the high levels of stress he experiences due to his demanding schedule manifested in a very scary moment on live television which still has fans wondering what happened. Technically, Ryan’s health status is nobody’s business until he or his team decides to disclose additional information; but, his symptoms are indicative of a number of severe stress-related disorders where early detection is key to effective treatment and recovery. While not a complete list, below are some potential explanations of the symptoms:
Bell’s Palsy is a neurological disorder that causes sudden, temporary weakness or paralysis on one side of the face causing the face to “droop” and difficulty closing the eye on the affected side. The exact cause of the disorder is unknown, but it is usually associated with inflammation of the nerve that controls facial muscles. Medical experts believe that stress weakens the immune system and damages the seventh cranial nerve (or the facial nerve) which causes facial paralysis. Typically, the symptoms resolve on their own with full recovery within a few weeks.
Oscar-winning actress and philanthropist, Angelina Jolie, was affected by this condition in 2016. Her diagnosis came during an incredibly stressful year which saw Jolie undergoing a double-mastectomy and ovariectomy after learning she was positive for the BRCA gene linked to breast and ovarian cancer (Jolie’s mother died of ovarian cancer) and beginning a messy divorce from Brad Pitt.
TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack)
A TIA or “mini-stroke” occurs when small clots (usually a cholesterol deposit) temporarily blocks the blood flow in vessels in the brain. Symptoms of a TIA include slurred speech, loss of coordination, vision disturbances, and sudden muscle numbness, weakness, or paralysis. The symptoms usually resolve quickly (within five minutes) and usually do not leave lasting damage. However, TIAs are a warning sign of possible future strokes. In fact, TIAs most often occur hours or days before strokes.
Malcolm in the Middle star, Frankie Muniz suffered a series of TIAs beginning in 2012. Regarding the TIAs, Muniz states: “I’m 31, I’ve never sipped alcohol, I’ve never touched a drug or taken a drag of a cigarette. The only thing I’ve felt was stress. I’m a high-strung person. I just like to always be moving. I’m not good at relaxing.”
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
Given Ryan’s incredibly rapid recovery (atypical for Bells Palsy) and his rep denying that he experienced “any kind of stroke,” the most likely reason behind Ryan’s symptoms could be good-ole-fashioned hypertension. Specifically, a sudden increase in blood pressure also known as a hypertensive crisis or blood pressure spike. Blood pressure spikes can cause severe headaches, trouble with thinking and cognition, increases in eye pressure, temporary irritation of the optic, and cranial nerves which can lead to “droopy” appearing eyelids. Symptoms usually resolve once an individual’s blood pressure returns to normal ranges. If left untreated can lead to more serious issues that require hospitalization.
The odd physical manifestation of Seacrest’s stress-induced exhaustion serves as a reminder of the negative impact stress can have on our overall health, especially with the new challenges we face due to the COVID crisis. It’s important to find healthy ways to cope with the added financial, social, and emotional stressors the pandemic has added to our already stressful lives. This includes eliminating and minimizing unnecessary stressors and obligations; finding ways to be physically active; and staying connected with family and friends during social distancing. Most importantly, it means finding time to take much-needed breaks.
For Seacrest, this meant some much-needed time off and a nice Memorial Day hike.