Act F.A.S.T. in Case of Stroke to Save Lives

May Is National Stroke Awareness Month

ALBANY, NY, May 15, 2007 - Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., highlighted the life-and-death importance of recognizing the signs of a stroke and calling 911 immediately if a stroke is suspected, along with Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (45th District), who two years ago suffered a major stroke with the potential to end his life or leave him severely incapacitated; Nettie Mayersohn (27th District) who played a key role in developing legislation creating specialized stroke centers; and Paul Hartman of the American Stroke Association.

Assemblyman Cymbrowitz's complete recovery is attributable to his wife immediately recognizing his symptoms as a stroke and acting FAST:

  • F Face: Is one side of the face drooping down?
  • A Arm: Can the person raise both arms?
  • S Speech: Is speech slurred or confusing; is the person unable to speak?
  • T Time: Time is critical. Call 911 immediately.

She immediately called 911, the local emergency medical services (EMS) provider, and EMS took him to one of the state's designated stroke centers, where immediate treatment saved his life. Within one month, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz was back at work, with no permanent disabilities from the stroke.

"Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability in New York," Commissioner Daines said. "While the risk of stroke increases as we age, more than one-quarter of strokes happen to people under 65 – the least likely group to suspect they are at risk." With early recognition and treatment, much of the resulting disability can be avoided.

The Assemblyman knows he was one of the lucky ones and immediate advanced medical treatment is the reason.

"My own experience highlights that education is the key to reducing the number of stroke victims, and early intervention is the key to reducing the devastating disability that can result from a stroke," Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said. "It is important that in addition to informing the public about lifestyle changes that can prevent a stroke, individuals must know what to do if someone around them suffers a stroke. The message is simple: If a stroke is suspected, get to a hospital with a stroke center immediately. Don't even wait for your doctor to return your call. Fortunately, my wife knew what to do. I am confident that with increased stroke education, many other lives will be saved."

One hundred six New York State hospitals have applied for and received designation as stroke centers, where physicians, nurses and pharmacists are organized to respond in the most efficient manner to minimize the effects of stroke. (A list of the centers by region is attached to this release.)

"It is frustrating to know that while 80 percent of strokes can be prevented, strokes are still the third-leading cause of death in America and the No. 1 cause of adult disability," Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said. "This is why it is important that the public knows and understands what lifestyle changes will reduce their chances of having a stroke."

Dr. Daines agreed that stroke is largely preventable by making healthy lifestyle choices that help reduce the risk and severity:

  • Control your blood pressure.
  • Avoid tobacco use.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Lower your cholesterol levels.
  • Diabetics should strive for optimum sugar control.
  • Get checked for heart rhythm disturbances.
  • Exercise 30 minutes most days, as simply as three brisk 10-minute walks.

Assemblywoman Mayersohn explained that "stroke is the third-leading cause of death in this country. A stroke's sudden impact can affect people of all ages, not just the elderly. If someone is fortunate to survive a stroke, there are often serious side effects that the individual will have to deal with for the rest of his/her life."

"Therefore, it is urgent to identify the warning signs of an oncoming stroke attack, call 911 and quickly get to one of the designated stroke centers. In some cases, damage may be reversed if treatment is administered within three hours of the onset of the stroke," she added.

"The American Stroke Association applauds the State Health Department for its commitment to increasing awareness of stroke issues and improving the stroke systems of care," said Paul Hartman, Director of Advocacy for the American Stroke Association. "New York State has been a national leader in implementing stroke center designation; calling attention to the need for appropriate acute stroke care; placing increased attention on public education and opening the doors for telemedicine for stroke."

Mr. Hartman added, "Due to ongoing public education efforts, more people are aware of the risk factors and warning signs for stroke than in the past, but still fewer than one in five adults can correctly classify all stroke symptoms. Therefore we join with Commissioner Daines in urging all the citizens of our state to familiarize themselves with the warning signs, symptoms and risk factors associated with stroke, so that we might begin to reduce the devastating effects of stroke on our population."

"EMS stations are key partners in our effort to improve treatment for strokes," Dr. Daines said, noting that EMS Recognition Week begins May 21 in New York. "Your local ambulance squad knows where the nearest designated stroke center is," he added. "The warning signs of a stroke may last just a few minutes and then go away. To get the full benefit of treatment, it's important to get to the hospital as soon as possible. There are medications and treatments that can greatly cut the long-term effects of the most common type of stroke if they are administered within the first hour of symptoms."

An estimated 700,000 to 750,000 new or recurrent strokes occur annually in the United States. In the time it takes to read this press release, at least three Americans will be stricken with a stroke.

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel bringing oxygen and nutrients to the brain bursts or is clogged by a blood clot or another obstruction. This keeps part of the brain from getting the oxygen it needs. From the first moment of the stroke, the affected part of the brain begins dying. The longer blood flow is blocked to the brain, the greater the damage. A clot-bursting drug called t-PA (tissue-Plasminogen Activator) has been shown to improve a patient's outcome if administered within three hours of a stroke. The drug is available to all hospitals and is also used for heart attacks and other cases of blood clots.

As part of its monitoring process, the State Health Department has been collecting data from the designated stroke centers to maintain best practice standards and continue their designation status. Centers that have been operating for at least one year will be evaluated on their identified outcome objectives, annual comparison studies, a summary of stroke-related issues, documentation on the acute stroke team and the medical director's training.

Dr. Daines pointed out that data from Ellis Hospital in Schenectady indicates how well this designated stroke center is doing on its quality and performance measures. As examples, from 2005 to 2006 Ellis Hospital improved its compliance with stroke education from 17 percent to 94 percent through its use of community health fairs, wellness expos, presentations to corporations and employee events.

Ellis' stroke center also achieved 100 percent scores in nearly every category when benchmarked against the national performance data from the Joint Commission on Accreditation for Healthcare Organizations.

Designated Stroke Centers by Region and County

Capital District

  • Albany Memorial Hospital, Albany
  • St. Peter's Hospital, Albany
  • Albany Medical Center, Albany
  • Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital, Otsego
  • Seton Health/St. Mary's Hospital, Rensselaer
  • Samaritan Hospital, Rensselaer
  • Ellis Hospital, Schenectady

Central New York

  • Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, Broome
  • United Health Services Hospitals/Wilson Division, Broome
  • SUNY Upstate Medical Center, Onondaga

Metropolitan Area

  • Westchester Square Medical Center, Bronx
  • Bronx Lebanon Hospital Center/ Concourse Division, Bronx
  • Jacobi Medical Center, Bronx
  • Our Lady of Mercy Medical Center, Bronx
  • Montefiore Medical Center/Moses Division, Bronx
  • Montefiore Medical Center/Jack D. Weller Hospital of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University, Bronx
  • St. Barnabas Hospital, Bronx
  • Vassar Brothers Medical Center, Dutchess
  • Northern Dutchess Hospital, Dutchess
  • St. Francis Hospital and Health Centers, Dutchess
  • Kings County Hospital Center, Kings
  • Victory Memorial Hospital, Kings
  • New York Methodist Hospital, Kings
  • Maimonides Medical Center, Kings
  • Long Island Hospital Center, Kings
  • Beth Israel Medical Center/Kings Highway Division, Kings
  • Coney Island Hospital, Kings
  • New York Community Hospital, Kings
  • The Brooklyn Hospital Center, Kings
  • Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center, Kings
  • Lutheran Medical Center, Kings
  • University Hospital of Brooklyn, Kings
  • Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, Kings
  • Long Beach Medical Center, Nassau
  • Winthrop University Hospital, Nassau
  • Mercy Medical Center, Nassau
  • Franklin Hospital Medical Center, Nassau
  • South Nassau Communities Hospital, Nassau
  • Nassau University Medical Center, Nassau
  • North Shore University Hospital/ Manhasset, Nassau
  • North Shore University Hospital/Syosset, Nassau
  • North Shore University Hospital/Glen Cove, Nassau
  • North Shore University Hospital/ Plainview, Nassau
  • St. Francis Hospital/The Heart Center, Nassau
  • Mount Sinai Hospital, New York
  • Metropolitan Hospital Center, New York
  • New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, New York
  • NYU Medical Center, New York
  • New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia Medical Center, New York
  • St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital/Roosevelt Division, New York
  • Lenox Hill Hospital, New York
  • Harlem Hospital Center, New York
  • Cabrini Medical Center, New York
  • Bellevue Hospital Center, New York
  • St. Vincent's Midtown Hospital, New York
  • Beth Israel Medical Center/Petrie Division, New York
  • St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital/St. Luke's Division, New York
  • St. Vincent's Catholic Medical Centers/St. Vincent's Manhattan, New York
  • Orange Regional Medical Center/ Middletown, Orange
  • St. Luke's Cornwall Hospital/Cornwall, Orange
  • St. Luke's Cornwall Hospital/Newburgh, Orange
  • Putnam Hospital Center, Putnam
  • Peninsula Hospital Center, Queens
  • North Shore University Hospital/Forest Hills, Queens
  • New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens, Queens
  • Long Island Jewish Medical Center, Queens
  • Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, Queens
  • Mt. Sinai Hospital Medical Center of Queens, Queens
  • Parkway Hospital, Queens
  • Flushing Hospital Medical Center, Queens
  • City Hospital Center at Elmhurst, Queens
  • Richmond University Medical Center, Richmond
  • Staten Island University Hospital North, Richmond
  • Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center of Suffern, Rockland
  • Nyack Hospital, Rockland
  • Huntington Hospital, Suffolk
  • Brookhaven Hospital, Suffolk
  • Stony Brook University Hospital, Suffolk
  • St. Charles Hospital, Suffolk
  • Southside Hospital, Suffolk
  • Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center, Suffolk
  • St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center, Suffolk
  • John T. Mather Memorial Hospital, Suffolk
  • Kingston Hospital, Ulster
  • Benedictine Hospital, Ulster
  • White Plains Hospital Center, Westchester
  • Northern Westchester Hospital, Westchester
  • Lawrence Hospital Center, Westchester
  • The Mount Vernon Hospital, Westchester
  • St. John's Riverside Hospital, Westchester
  • Westchester Medical Center, Westchester
  • Sound Shore Medical Center, Westchester

Western New York

  • St. Joseph's Hospital, Chemung
  • Arnot Ogden Medical Center, Chemung
  • Mercy Hospital of Buffalo, Erie
  • Millard Fillmore Hospital Gates Center, Erie
  • Sisters of Charity Hospital, Erie
  • Kenmore Mercy Hospital, Erie
  • Rochester General Hospital, Monroe
  • Strong Memorial Hospital, Monroe
  • Unity Health Systems/Park Ridge Hospital, Monroe
  • Highland Hospital, Monroe
  • Geneva General Hospital, Ontario
  • F.F. Thomson, Ontario
  • Corning Hospital, Steuben