May is National Stroke Awareness Month: Know the Signs

About every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. In fact, stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States—right after heart disease and cancer.

A stroke is a very serious medical emergency. The more you understand about stroke, the better prepared you will be to protect yourself or to act if you or someone you know has a stroke.

Signs and symptoms of stroke include sudden numbness, tingling or weakness in the face, arm or leg (especially on one side of the body); sudden trouble speaking or understanding others; sudden difficulty seeing in one or both eyes; sudden dizziness, trouble walking, or loss of balance or coordination; sudden severe headache with no known cause; and sudden memory loss or personality or mood changes.

Stroke symptoms always come on suddenly. If your symptoms go away in several minutes, you may have had a “mini-stroke,” also known as a transient ischemic attack, or TIA. TIAs are an early warning of a full-blown stroke.

To check if someone is having a stroke, ask the person to “Give you Five: Walk, Talk, Reach, See, Speak.”

Walk: Is their balance off?

Talk: Is their speech slurred or face droopy?

Reach: Is one side weak or numb?

See: Is their vision all or partly lost?

Feel: Is their headache severe?

If you or someone you know experiences the signs or symptoms of stroke, call 911 immediately. The sooner a stroke victim receives treatment, the less likely that person will die or suffer permanent disability.

A stroke occurs when blood flow to a part of the brain is interrupted, either when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures, or when a blood clot blocks an artery that supplies blood to the brain.

Given the seriousness of stroke and the fact that RMH sits in a “stroke belt,” a group of 11 states where stroke mortality is more than 10 percent higher than the national average, RMH has committed to becoming a Joint Commission-certified primary stroke care center.

The RMH stroke initiative is led by neurologist Dan Chehebar, DO, with RMH Neurology. In early 2009, RMH formed a multi-disciplinary stroke task force. Later that year, RMH added a dedicated stroke unit staffed by nurses specially trained in caring for stroke patients.

“We have made tremendous advances in how stroke is managed and cared for at RMH,” says Dr. Chehebar. “And we are definitely seeing how these changes are leading to improvements in our stroke core measures and treatment outcomes, which will help RMH meet the criteria established by the Joint Commission to become a certified stroke care center.”

In recognition of the work RMH has accomplished toward its goal, the American Stroke Association awarded RMH in spring 2010 with its Get With The GuidelinesSM–Stroke Bronze Performance Achievement Award. The award recognizes the hospital’s commitment to and success in implementing a higher standard of stroke care by ensuring that stroke patients receive treatment according to nationally accepted standards and recommendations.

“The number of stroke patients eligible for treatment is expected to grow over the next decade due to increasing stroke incidence and a large aging population,” Dr. Chehebar says. “Thanks to our entire team’s commitment to providing the highest quality stroke care, patients receive rapid assessment and treatment, which results in better chances for survival and better recovery with less long-term impact.”

Strokes occur in people of all ages, but they are especially common in older adults. The National Stroke Association says about 80 percent of strokes could be prevented if people make certain lifestyle changes.

To learn more about stroke, visit or

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