New York State Department of Health Recognizes National Stroke Awareness Month in May

New Report : Disparities in Recognition of Signs and Symptoms of Stroke Persist in New York

"F.A.S.T." Can Help Identify the Most Common Signs and Symptoms of a Stroke

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 17, 2023) – The New York State Department of Health encourages all New Yorkers to be aware of the signs and symptoms of stroke in recognition of National Stroke Awareness Month. Stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, is always a medical emergency. Knowing the signs and symptoms of a stroke, acting F.A.S.T., and calling 911 immediately can significantly raise a person's chance of survival. The Department has released a report on awareness of the signs and symptoms of stroke based on data from the 2021 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).

"When it comes to stroke, every second is precious. Stroke can be deadly, or leave individuals with lifelong disability, so knowing the signs and acting fast can literally save a life," Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said."This Department remains committed to advancing treatment and care to prevent stroke and improve survival rates, especially in underserved communities that face poorer outcomes because of a lack of access to health information and care."

According to the report, less than a third of New York adults (31.2%) were able to correctly recognize the five common signs and symptoms of stroke and identify calling 9-1-1 as the first action to take in response to stroke. Less than half of adults (49%) were able to identify a sudden headache without a known cause as a sign of stroke.

Findings from the report highlight the significant disparities in the awareness of stroke signs and symptoms among New Yorkers. Awareness of stroke signs and symptoms was lower among adults identifying as Black or Hispanic, adults without a personal doctor, and those who completed the BRFSS survey in Spanish. The report cites structural factors, including inequitable access to health information as factors contributing to these disparities, and underscores the importance of ensuring all New Yorkers have access to the same information about the signs of symptoms of stroke.

A stroke happens when oxygen-carrying blood is blocked from reaching the brain. There are two major types of stroke to be aware of, with each of the following types blocking oxygen from reaching the brain in different ways:

  • Ischemic: A blood clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain. The American Stroke Association says 87% of all strokes are ischemic.
  • Hemorrhagic: A blood vessel bursts and leaks blood into the brain.

All major stroke symptoms appear suddenly, without warning. Remembering "F.A.S.T." can help identify the most common signs and symptoms of a stroke and potentially safe a life when every second counts.

F = Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of their face droop?

A = Arm: Can the person raise both arms? Does one arm drift down? Is their arm weak?

S = Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or confusing?

T = Time: Time is critical. Note the time when stroke symptoms first appear and call 9-1-1 right away. Anyone who may be having a stroke should have an ambulance drive them to the hospital.

Other signs of a stroke can include numb or weak face, arm, or leg, mostly on one side; trouble seeing with one or both eyes; confusion or trouble understanding people; dizziness; loss of balance or coordination, or trouble walking; and severe headache that comes on for no reason.

If someone is showing the signs and symptoms of a stroke, calling 911 immediately saves precious time and improves the likelihood of a positive outcome.

Stroke has had a disproportionate impact on communities that have historically faced barriers to quality access to health care. A report released by the Department in October 2022 found stroke prevalence was nearly twice as high among non-Hispanic Black adults than non-Hispanic White adults. The annual survey also concluded that men, adults with less than a college education, and adults who experience food insecurity are more likely to report stroke, heart attack, or coronary heart disease than women, adults with a college education, and adults with food security. As a result of these systemic inequities in health care, according to the American Stroke Association, Black Americans have a higher prevalence of stroke and the highest death rate from stroke than any other racial group.

The New York State Department of Health has several programs dedicated to improving prevention, treatment, and community education for stroke.

The New York State Stroke Designation Program recognizes the advanced capabilities of hospitals to treat complex stroke patients in a multi-tiered system including Primary Stroke Centers, Thrombectomy Capable Stroke Centers, and Comprehensive Stroke Centers. In March of this year, the Department released updated NYS Stroke Center Guidance for certifying organizations, hospitals and health systems. These updated standards will become effective on September 1, 2023, for all initial certifications and recertifications.

Find a list of currently designated stroke centers in New York State here.

New York State is also one of 13 states funded by the Paul Coverdell National Acute Stroke Program. The New York State Coverdell Program engages in statewide quality improvement activities that expand and strengthen the state's Stroke Designation Program. The New York State Coverdell Stroke Program aims to support the development of comprehensive stroke systems to close gaps in stroke systems of care and achieve improvements in prevention, in-hospital and post-hospital care, and community education to prevent and reduce the burden of stroke. In partnership with the New York State Stroke Designation Program, the Coverdell Program developed stroke education materials available in 13 languages to increase awareness of the signs and symptoms of stroke and the importance of activating 9-1-1.