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New Jersey Department of Health Recognizes Stroke Awareness Month; Tips and Resources Are Available

Trenton, NJ, May 27, 2015 ― May is National Stroke Awareness Month and the New Jersey Department of Health is highlighting the devastating health effects of the condition and encouraging residents to be alert for the signs of stroke.

“Stroke is an important public health challenge and despite advances in prevention, diagnosis and treatment, stroke remains the 3rd leading cause of death in New Jersey and it is the number one cause of disability in our state,” said New Jersey Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd.

A stroke is caused when a blood clot blocks the blood supply to part of the brain or when a blood vessel in or around the brain bursts. In either case, parts of the brain become damaged or die. If the supply of blood or oxygen is not quickly restored permanent brain damage or death can occur.

“The best way to prevent a stroke is to watch your weight, avoid smoking, drink alcohol at minimal levels, and keep your blood pressure under control,” added O’Dowd. “By making healthy choices, you help protect yourself against a possible stroke.”

“Someone in New Jersey has a stroke every 30 minutes and 39 percent of stroke patients die or become severely disabled while hospitalized, said Policy and Strategic Planning Director Cathy Bennett. “Those who are 65 and older account for more than 70 percent of hospitalized stroke patients.”

“However, Department analysis indicates there may be a demographic shift in the population of individuals with stroke, with the 40-64 year olds showing a faster proportionate increase in hospitalizations among both men and women,” Bennett added.

Many times family members are the first people to recognize that something is wrong with a relative or loved one and speed of diagnoses is critical to limiting the damage that a stroke may cause.

“New Jersey’s network of hospitals designated as stroke treatment centers provide rapid diagnosis and effective stroke care, giving patients the best chance of survival with the best outcomes,” said Commissioner O’Dowd.

Should you notice a family member, or any person, with the following symptoms, please dial 9-1-1 immediately:

  • 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,
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

People may also use the “FAST” test to recognize if a person may be suffering from a stroke.

  • F = FACE – Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • A = ARMS – Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • S = SPEECH – Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?
  • T = TIME – If you observe any of these signs, it is time to call 9-1-1 immediately.

The New Jersey Department of Health designates licensed general hospitals that meet certain medical standards of care as either a Primary Stroke Center or a Comprehensive Stroke Center.

To date, New Jersey has 53 primary stroke center hospitals and 13 comprehensive hospitals that have met the state’s criteria for inclusion into these categories. The Department monitors quality and performance at the designated hospitals.

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