Spectrum Health Offers Free Stroke Screening and Education

In recognition of National Stroke Awareness Month, Spectrum Health is offering free stroke screening and education sessions throughout the month of May.

Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and a leading cause of serious, long-term disability. Depending on where in the brain it occurs and how soon treatment is sought, however, the effects of a stroke may be very different.

“When you or a loved one suffers a stroke, it can be a frightening and overwhelming experience,” said Timothy K. Thoits, MD, neurologist, Spectrum Health Medical Group, interim medical director, Spectrum Health Stroke Centers. “It is possible to reduce the damage caused by the most common type of stroke, but only if treatment is given quickly. That’s why it is crucial patients get to a hospital immediately after experiencing symptoms of a stroke.”

A stroke occurs most often when blood flow to the brain stops because it is blocked by a clot. The brain cells in the immediate area begin to die because they stop getting the oxygen and nutrients they need to function. This type of stroke is called ischemic stroke. Patients can also suffer from a hemorrhagic stroke that is caused by a blood vessel that breaks and bleeds in the brain.

Regardless of the type of stroke, patients need to be able to recognize the symptoms of a stroke, says Dr. Thoits.

Those symptoms include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

In recognition of Stroke Awareness Month, the American Stroke Association is promoting the “FAST” message to help the public easily recall stroke symptoms and know what to do:

  • Face – Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • Arms – Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech – Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is speech slurred or strange?
  • Time – If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Spectrum Health is dedicated to stroke patients and offers a full range of care. Spectrum’s regional community hospital emergency departments are connected to the experts at Butterworth and Blodgett hospitals in Grand Rapids, which are recognized as Primary Stroke Centers, providing the highest level of comprehensive stroke treatments. After a stroke, Spectrum Health offers all levels of specialized rehabilitation therapy services and recovery support. An online stroke risk assessment can be found at for those who want to learn their personal risk factors and what they can do to prevent a stroke.

More information about stroke is available at

Spectrum Health is a not-for-profit health system, based in West Michigan, offering a full continuum of care through the Spectrum Health Hospital Group, which is comprised of 11 hospitals including Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital; 170 ambulatory and service sites; 1,080 employed physicians and advanced practice providers including members of the Spectrum Health Medical Group; and Priority Health, a 575,000-member health plan. Spectrum Health is West Michigan’s largest employer with 21,300 employees. The organization provided $250 million in community benefit during its 2013 fiscal year.