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Recognizing Stroke Risk Can be Lifesaving

Willie Griffin

Jan. 6 was a regular Saturday for Willie Griffin. He came home, took a bath and sat down to relax. At some point, he dozed off. When he awoke, he looked at his cell phone and was seeing double.


“I said, ‘Something isn’t right. I see two pictures when I should be seeing one,’” said Griffin, 73.


He went to the bathroom, trying to “shake things off” and looked in the mirror and saw double there, too. He told his wife something seemed wrong with his eyes.


“I didn’t think it was a stroke. I thought it was my eyes,” Griffin said. “But she told me, ‘You may be having a stroke. You need to go to the hospital — and she was right.’”


After a call to 911, an ambulance took Griffin to Atrium Health Navicent The Medical Center where he received a thrombolytic (Tenecteplase) treatment, which dissolves dangerous blood clots, preventing tissue damage and improving blood flow. He did so well with that treatment that he only required a one-time therapy visit after his stroke. Early detection of stroke symptoms may have saved Griffin’s life.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. Every 3.5 minutes, someone dies of stroke.


Atrium Health Navicent invites the community to observe National Stroke Month during May by learning to recognize and react to the signs of stroke, and know what to do if you suspect someone is having a stroke. Learn the acronym B.E.F.A.S.T. and call 911 immediately.

  • B – Balance loss (Is the person suddenly having trouble with balance or coordination?)

  • E – Eyesight changes (Is the person having sudden blurred or double vision in one or both eyes?)

  • F – Facial weakness (Can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?)

  • A – Arm or leg weakness (Can the person raise both arms?)

  • S – Speech difficulty (Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?)

  • T – Time to act (Seek medical attention immediately!)

Central Georgians are at an increased risk for stroke due to the prevalence of common risk factors that include high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and tobacco use. Georgia is in the “Stroke Belt,” an area in the Southeastern United States where stroke deaths are approximately 30 percent higher than the rest of the country. In 2021, Georgia held the 8th highest stroke death rate in the country, with 5,233 people dying from strokes.


Despite the statistics that come with living in the Stroke Belt, there are small steps you can take to reduce your risk of stroke. Learn what you can do to reduce your risk of stroke by:

  • Assessing your risk using The American Stroke Association’s Stroke Risk Assessment

  • Eat a healthy diet

  • Be physically active

  • Watch your weight

  • Live tobacco-free

  • Manage your medical conditions

  • Take medicine as prescribed by your doctor or other medical provider

  • Be a team player to work with your health care team to make healthy changes part of your stroke prevention plan.

“We encourage everyone to learn more about stroke risk, how to recognize the signs and symptoms of a stroke, and to consider making simple lifestyle changes that can reduce stroke risk,” said Dr. Matthew Smith, Atrium Health Navicent’s stroke program director.


In addition to being recognized as a “high performing” stroke center by U.S. News & World Report, Atrium Health Navicent The Medical Center is a 13-time recipient of the “Get with the Guidelines – Stroke Gold Plus” Quality Achievement Award, an annual award presented by the American Heart Association (AHA) and American Stroke Association for excellence in stroke care. The health system earned the award by meeting specific quality achievement measures for the diagnosis and treatment of stroke patients at a set level for a designated period.


Atrium Health Navicent was named to AHA’s “Target: Stroke Honor Roll Elite” in 2023. The Honor Roll recognizes the hospital’s commitment to ensuring stroke patients receive the most appropriate treatment according to nationally recognized, research-based guidelines based on the latest scientific evidence.


For the third consecutive year, Atrium Health Navicent has been named to AHA’s “Target Type 2 Diabetes” Honor Roll, which recognizes hospitals that are taking steps to help stroke patients control and manage Type 2 diabetes, a well- established risk factor for stroke.


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