Brooklyn, NY (May 3, 2011) – Stroke kills more than 140,000 Americans every year, the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer. It is also the leading cause of serious, long-term disability. May is National Stroke Awareness Month, an opportunity to highlight the importance of preventing strokes, as well as learning the early warning signs so that if someone is having a stroke, medical intervention can happen as quickly as possible.

“Every second counts in the race to identify and treat stroke,” said Dr. Steven Rudolph, Director of the Jaffe Stroke Center at Maimonides Medical Center. “The sooner we can make a diagnosis and start treatment, the more we improve our chances of minimizing damage to the brain. All of us should take a few minutes to learn the warning signs of stroke, so we can help someone we suspect may be experiencing this medical emergency by calling 911 right away.

Stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked or bursts. A blocked vessel prevents necessary blood and oxygen from reaching the brain. A burst blood vessel causes blood to accumulate and compress brain tissue. In both instances, the affected part of the brain starts to die. Stroke treatment depends on the type of stroke, among other factors.

According to the American Stroke Association, the most common symptoms of stroke are: sudden weakness in the face, arm or leg – especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding; sudden dizziness, trouble walking, loss of balance or coordination; and/or a sudden severe headache with no apparent cause.

The National Stroke Association offers a helpful tool to help remember these symptoms and respond quickly – the acronym FAST, for Face, Arms, Speech and Time. If you suspect a stroke is occurring, ask your loved one to smile, raise both arms, and repeat a simple sentence. If one side of the face droops, one arm drifts downward, the words are slurred or the sentence is not repeated correctly, call 911 immediately.

While some of the risk factors for stroke are hereditary, others are not. This means that each one of us can reduce vulnerability to stroke by being aware of our risk factors, including medical history and personal habits. Some risks can be reduced by living a healthier, more active lifestyle. Dr Rudolph advises:

  • Have your blood pressure checked regularly.
  • Eat a varied and balanced diet that relies heavily on vegetables, whole grains, fish, lean meats and fruit.
  • Keep your weight under control.
  • Monitor your blood cholesterol: you should try to lower the “Lousy” kind known as LDL, and increase the “Happy” kind known as HDL.
  • Get moderate exercise on a regular basis (at least two and a half hours per week).
  • Avoid excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Consult your doctor if you have a family history of stroke or high blood pressure to determine if you need additional assistance in prevention efforts.

“It’s critical that all of us pay attention to our risk factors and do everything we can to eat right, exercise, and take other measures that will reduce our chances of suffering a stroke,” added Rudolph. “Prevention is still our most effective weapon.”

The Jaffe Stroke Center at Maimonides provides expert care to patients in a dedicated stroke unit, reducing stroke-related complications and ensuring patients obtain the best possible functional outcome. Dr. Rudolph, a renowned stroke neurologist, works closely with physicians and nurses in emergency medicine, radiology, vascular and neurosurgery, intensive care and rehabilitation medicine to provide a full range of technologically advanced diagnostic and treatment services.

In 2005, Maimonides was designated a Stroke Center by the New York State Department of Health, and was fully accredited by the Joint Commission. That same year, Maimonides received the Stroke Care Excellence Award from HealthGrades, and has continued to achieve that designation every year since.

The Jaffe Stroke Center at Maimonides recently was awarded the Gold Plus Award for excellence in performance from the American Stroke Association's "Get With the Guidelines" Program. In addition, it has been named to the “Target: Stroke” Honor Roll – one of 50 hospitals in the United States to achieve this recognition.

Now celebrating its Centennial, Maimonides Medical Center is among the largest independent teaching hospitals in the nation, training over 450 interns, residents and fellows annually. Widely recognized for its major achievements in advancing medical and information technology, Maimonides has 711 beds and over 70 subspecialty programs. For more information on the state-of-the-art clinical services at Maimonides Medical Center, visit


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