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May 2, 2014

Stern Stroke Center Explains the Importance of Calling 911 When Suspecting a Stroke

NEW YORK (May 2, 2014) – Every year, almost 800,000 people in the United States experience a stroke, which occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted by a blocked or ruptured blood vessel. Stroke causes more serious long-term disability than any other disease, but a greater chance of recovery can occur if signs of a stroke are recognized and victims get to a hospital quickly. This May, during National Stroke Awareness Month, the Stern Stroke Center at Montefiore Medical Center is ramping up education efforts about how immediate recognition and treatment of stroke can minimize associated side effects and even prevent death.

“When it comes to stroke, every minute counts,” said Daniel L. Labovitz, M.D., director, Stern Stroke Center, Montefiore and assistant professor of Neurology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. “Ischemic stroke, which represents 85 percent of all stroke cases, occurs when a clot blocks blood supply to part of the brain. If these patients are seen within a three hour window, we can use a ‘clot buster’ called tPA to restore blood flow and improve chances of good recovery. That is why if you think it might be a stroke, just call 911. Don’t worry about getting it wrong. Nobody will be mad if it is not a stroke case.”

A study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found the faster patients receive a clot-busting medication, the more likely they will be to go home with the ability to walk and even make a full recovery. Bleeding in the brain, a possible complication, also affected fewer patients when they arrived within one hour of a stroke first occurring.

Stroke, unlike a heart attack, may be difficult for the victim to recognize because people may not experience pain. This is why the American Stroke Association uses the acronym “FAST” to help people remember the most common signs of stroke. FAST stands for:

  • F: Facial weakness or drooping
  • A: Arms becoming numb
  • S: Speech becoming slurred or someone is having a hard time finding the right words
  • T: Time, referencing the importance of calling 911

At Montefiore, people are treated for both complex ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke, when blood leaks into the brain, by using advanced medical, surgical and rehabilitation services, but a stroke can be highly preventable.

“Stroke risk factors are very similar to heart attack,” said Deepa Bhupali, M.D., stroke fellow, Stern Stroke Center, Montefiore. “We advise our patients to avoid smoking and eat a Mediterranean diet with lots of vegetables and no junk food. We use medications too, especially to manage high blood pressure. High blood pressure management alone can eliminate half of the strokes that occur.” 

Stroke education will take place throughout the month of May, including a series of Twitter chats with the American Stroke Association under #StrokeChat, which will begin Wednesday, May 14 at 3:00pm EST with Kathryn Kirchoff-Torres, M.D., neurologist, Stern Stroke Center, Montefiore and assistant professor, Neurology, Einstein, discussing stroke prevention. For more information about stroke educational activities and stroke safety, please visit