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Raising the Bar in Rehab

American Heart Month

Published February 14, 2013 6:17 PM by Lisa Mueller

February is American Heart Month and as we see more red-dress pins and other symbols recognizing the impact of heart diseases, I thought this would be a good time to review the signs and symptoms of two major pathologies impacting our patients' health: Stroke (cerebral vascular accident) and heart attack (myocardial infarction).

Cerebral Vascular Accident

To screen for a stroke, think "FAST!"

F: Facial drooping. Ask your patient to smile and watch for facial symmetry.

A: Arm weakness. Ask your patient to lift her arms, including making a fist.

S: Slurred speech. Listen to your patient, and assess her ability to enunciate and find the right words.

T: Time. Note the time that you first noticed the signs and call 911 as soon as possible. The sooner the better, as many medications to aid in recovery are only effective within the first few hours after the original injury.

Myocardial Infarction

Signs and symptoms vary somewhat between women and men during a heart attack; however, there are basics to watch for, including:

● Chest tightness or discomfort.

● Shortness of breath.

● Pain or discomfort in the upper body, such as the shoulder, arm, jaw, back and neck.

● Changes in heart rate.

As physical therapists, we have the unique ability to screen for warning signs of heart disease during each of our interactions with patients. And, even greater, the information we share to empower our informed patients spreads to their families and friends. Take time this month to educate those around you about the signs of these two cardiac pathologies. Finding the warning signs early can make all the difference.

How often do you screen patients for pathologies such as these? Have you heard of any unique warning signs that don't fit the traditional descriptions?


Excellent PSA by Lisa! I saw another one recently which highlighted that women often experience different symptoms then men. This goes back to the history of experimental research which typically only looked at men.

Women, here is a good link to how your symptoms might be a little different. Good to know so that you don't dimiss those symptoms as 'nothing'.

Dean Metz February 15, 2013 1:05 PM

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