May is Stroke Awareness Month and for that reason, we remind you to familiarize yourself and your loved ones about this disease, which is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. A stroke happens when blood flow to the brain becomes obstructed. If not quickly diagnosed and treated, the results can include permanent brain damage or death. The key to limiting serious permanent injury is to identify the warning signs and ensure proper measures are taken right away to limit the potential for significant injury or death.

What are the steps to take if you believe a loved one is suffering from a stroke?

The first step is to recognize the symptoms the person is experiencing as a stroke. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) coined the acronym F.A.S.T. (Face, Arms, Speech, Time) to help identify the signs. Check out their website here for details on how to quickly diagnose a stroke; a rapid diagnosis can have a life-saving impact. The second step is to ensure that you call 911 and request emergency help right away. Correctly identifying a stroke can be extremely important for EMS so they can ensure the patient is transported to a facility that matches the patient’s needs to the facility’s care.

What are the different classifications of stroke centers?

When it comes to facilities that treat a stroke, navigating all the terminology can be very confusing. There are “primary” and “comprehensive” stroke centers. Oftentimes, you may hear hospitals referred to as a Level 1, 2, or 3 Stroke Center. What do these various classifications mean, and more importantly, how will you know which facility is right for you?

The Joint Commission, a global organization tasked with the daunting mission of improving health care for the public, has come up with a certification system for hospitals and facilities; if they meet all the criteria, they can claim one of the following stroke designations:

What questions should I research if someone I know is at high risk for a stroke?

If a member of your family is at high risk for stroke or heart disease, it would be helpful to take the time and learn about the stroke centers near you. Questions you may want to research are:

  • What is the hospital’s classification?
  • Where is the closest Comprehensive Stroke Center near you?
  • Does the facility actually have the resources required for CSC status? Is CSC status a designation they once held but have not maintained?

These questions are important, and the answers are not always easy to find. Taking the time to understand these nuances can have a life-saving impact on a loved one if they suffer a stroke. If a facility claims to be a CSC, make sure your loved one receives access to all the services a CSC is expected to provide.

If you have questions about a Stroke Center or need help finding a Comprehensive Stroke Center, send an email to

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