NJ Official Urges Everyone To Learn Stroke Warning Signs

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STATE — May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and Health and Senior Services Commissioner Dr. Poonam Alaigh encourages everyone to learn stroke’s warning signs and take steps to reduce their risks for this potentially disabling and deadly condition.

“New Jersey’s network of hospitals designated as stroke treatment centers can provide rapid diagnosis and effective stroke care. This gives patients the best chance of survival with limited health damage,” said Alaigh.

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“Getting the full benefit of this care, however, requires fast action when someone first suffers a stroke.  It’s vital that everyone learn to recognize a possible stroke and call 911 so the person can get immediate care,” she said.

A stroke is a “brain attack” that occurs when a blood clot or broken blood vessel interrupts blood and oxygen flow to the brain.  Brain cells die, which can result in speech problems, memory loss, paralysis and other disabilities. Prompt emergency treatment can save lives and help minimize or eliminate disability.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. and the leading cause of adult disability.  Each year in New Jersey, nearly 3,500 people die due to stroke.  African Americans in the state have the highest stroke death rate of any racial or ethnic group.

Managing health conditions and making healthy lifestyle changes can reduce your risk.  Up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented through proper risk factor management, according to the National Stroke Association.  Risk factors include high blood pressure, obesity, excessive alcohol use, smoking, diabetes and a heart condition known as atrial fibrillation.

Fewer than one in five Americans can recognize stroke symptoms, according to the stroke association.  Symptoms include: sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; and sudden severe headache with no known cause

If you remember to think F.A.S.T., it will help you recognize a possible stroke:

* F is for Face – Ask the person to smile.  Does one side of the face droop?
* A is for Arms – Ask the person to raise both arms.  Does one arm drift downward?
* S is for Speech – Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase.  Does the speech sound slurred or strange?
* T is for Time – If you observe any of these signs, it’s time to call 911.

The Department of Health and Senior Services is promoting a high standard of stroke care in New Jersey.  DHSS has designated 42 hospitals as primary stroke centers and 12 hospitals as comprehensive centers.  These hospitals must meet requirements such as having an acute stroke team and certain specialty physicians available, and having around-the-clock availability of specific diagnostic imaging services.  Comprehensive centers can handle the most complex stroke cases and perform the most specialized treatment procedures.  Primary centers can treat and admit patients, or transfer them to a comprehensive center if medically necessary.

All stroke centers began submitting data to the New Jersey Acute Stroke Registry in January.  The data will be used to help monitor stroke center performance, improve the quality of stroke care and help DHSS learn more about stroke treatment and rehabilitation services in New Jersey.  DHSS is advised by a 15 member Stroke Advisory Panel that represents all regions of the state and includes neurologists, nurses and the hospital industry.

Working with the Stroke Advisory Panel and the emergency medical services community, the Department also is developing guidelines that would ensure stroke patients are transported to the closest, most appropriate stroke center for care.


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