Friday, May 16, 2008


Simple test can help identify, respond to victim of a stroke

Stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability in the United States and the number three killer of Americans.

Every year 700,000 people nationwide will suffer a stroke and 160,000 will die from that stroke. It is because of these sobering facts that The American Academy of Neurology, The American Society of Emergency Physicians and the American Stroke Association have come together to form the Brain Attack Coalition.

May is “Stroke Awareness Month” and coalition members are emphasizing the need for early recognition of a stroke. Once recognized, intervention can begin and there is greater chance of full recovery.

In today’s column, we will review some ways to identify a stroke-in-progress, as well as early treatment. Tomorrow’s Healthy Sports column will describe the brain attack and rehabilitation of a famous athlete who suffered a stroke.

Up until now, public awareness efforts have centered on three signs of stroke. This has now been expanded into a campaign called “Give Me 5 for Stroke.” There are five questions if a stroke is suspected:

• Walk: Ask the person to take several steps. Is their balance off? Are they slumping to one side? Are they dragging one leg?

• Talk: Ask them to repeat a phrase such as “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Is their speech slurred? Are the words used appropriately?

• Reach: Have the person extend both arms in front of them. Can they raise both arms? Does one arm drift downward?

• See: Is their vision clear or blurred? Do they have double vision?
• Feel: Ask the person if they are in any pain. Specifically, do they have a headache? Is it the worst headache of their lives?

If any of these warning signs exist, there is a high probability the person is suffering a stroke. Emergency services should be called immediately.

Now that there are new treatments for acute stroke, recovery and survival are measured in minutes. Prompt action is imperative.

If you’d like more information about stroke, view my video at or contact the American Stroke Association at

nthony G. Alessi, MD, is Chief of Neurology at The William W. Backus Hospital with a private practice at NeuroDiagnostics, LLC in Norwich. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Alessi and all of the Healthy Living columnists at

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