Stroke Alert and Recovery Update

FAST inmage

Stroke Alert and Recovery Update
Stephanie McClain Riddle PharmD

F.A.S.T. is the widely accepted acronym that serves as a memory aid for the major stroke symptoms; Face dropping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, and Time to call for help. If you, or someone you are with, experiences any of the FAST symptoms, call 911 immediately.

Additional symptoms that may indicate the onset of a stroke include sudden numbness or weakness of the leg, arm or face, sudden confusion or trouble understanding, sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes, sudden trouble walking, feeling dizzy, loss of balance or coordination, and sudden severe headache with no known cause. The faster 911 is called, and the faster medical help arrives, the greater the chances of a good recovery.

A new statement on physical activity after stroke has been released by the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Stroke Association (ASA). Specialty councils from both the AHA and ASA reviewed information made available from systematic literature reviews, reference materials published in clinical and epidemiological studies, morbidity and mortality research reports, clinical and public health guidelines, and expert opinions, summarizing current treatment trends and indicating gaps in current knowledge.

The recently released statement is meant to be used as a guide for healthcare professionals as they develop care plans for their stroke patients. The statement emphasizes the importance of promoting physical activity in stroke survivors. According to the statement, physical activity should be individualized for each patient, and should begin by assisting each patient to start moving within 24 hours after the stroke event.

Once the patient is medically stable, an exercise regimen tailored to each patient’s abilities, likes, and dislikes, should be initiated with the ultimate target goal of at least 3 days a week of low to moderately intense aerobic activity lasting at least 20 minutes per session. Shorter 10 to 15 minute sessions depending on the physical condition of the patient and their tolerance to aerobic exercise is acceptable. Muscle resistance training, performed 2 to 3 days each week is also recommended as part of the physical activity regimen.

In the United States, about 795,000 people each year, or 1 person every 40 seconds, experience a stroke. Traditionally stroke victims have led sedentary lifestyles, even if they were more active prior to the event. The recently released statement strongly advises against the sedentary lifestyle. Instead, healthcare professionals are encouraged to prescribe physical activity for their stroke patients. This activity includes a 3 times weekly aerobic and muscle resistance program, suited to the patient’s likes and dislikes, in order to regain voluntary movement and recover their basic activities of daily living.

Remember F.A.S.T., be physically active, follow your doctor’s advice regarding risk management to guard against future strokes, and incorporate exercise you enjoy into your weekly routines. Additional information about the recent statement on physical activity in stroke victims can be found on the websites of the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association.

Authored by Stephanie McClain PharmD

To find out more information about the author click here

American Heart Association, American Stroke Association. Website information. Recent scientific statement. Statements, guidelines, and clinical updates. May 20, 2014.
Billinger, SA. AHA/ASA Scientific Statement. May 20, 2014. CrossMark. Published online before print:, doi: 10.1161/STR.0000000000000022.
Brooks, Megan. New AHA/ASA Statement on Physical Activity After Stroke. May 27, 2014. Medscape May 27 2014.