Valley Baptist promotes ‘FAST’ action for American Heart Association

HARLINGEN — The best reaction to assist a possible stroke victim is to follow the FAST acronym that abbreviates “Face. Arm. Speech. Time.”

Dr. Ameer Hassan, Director of Endovascular Surgical Neuroradiology, Neurocritical Care, and Clinical Neuroscience Research for Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen, said the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association set FAST education as the goal for May 2016. The FAST initiative encourages anyone who is aware of stroke symptoms to educate others.

“Face” indicates that someone suffering a stroke often displays a droopy face or an uneven smile. “Arm” means a person’s arm or arms might drift or become weak. “Speech” refers to how an affected person may slur words as they talk. “Time” means dial 9-1-1 at the first signs of stroke symptoms for an ambulance transport to an emergency room.

“We don’t want people driving potential stroke patients to the emergency room or to a hospital for general admittance because a stop for patient registration delays the time that otherwise could be saved on immediate stroke diagnosis and vital treatment,” said Dr. Hassan, who is active in the AHA/ASA. “We know that coming to the emergency room as quickly as possible increases a patient’s functional recovery.”

Dr. Victoria Parada, M.D., a Neurologist at VBMC-Harlingen, stated that “many departments at the hospital work together as a well-coordinated team to help ensure thorough care for stroke patients as they advance from the emergency room through rehabilitation. Each department plays a vital role in their care, including imaging, lab, the neuro ICU and stroke units, and many others. Physicians from a variety of specialties work together with hospital departments to help maximize patient outcomes.”

According to the AHA/ASA website, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and it’s the number one cause of adult disabilities worldwide. A stroke occurs when blood to the brain is interrupted or reduced. A blocked artery or a leaking blood vessel deprives the brain of oxygen and nutrients which can cause brain cells to die, according to The Mayo Clinic website.

Dr. Hassan also cited the importance of stroke prevention. Adults should get at least 30 minutes of exercise three times per week, eat healthy foods, control their blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and get an annual medical exam including laboratory tests – even if they feel they are in good health.

Adults should pay particular attention to blood pressure, diabetes and obesity factors, Dr. Hassan said, because those three conditions “are a melting pot for a possible stroke.” Approximately 90 percent of Rio Grande Valley residents are Hispanic, and studies show diabetes and hypertension rates among Hispanics are well above the national average.

Dr. Hassan is the Symposium Course Director for the Annual South Texas Comprehensive Stroke Care Symposium for health care professionals, which will be held Friday and Saturday, May 6-7, on South Padre Island. For more information, and a link for registration, go to, and click on Stroke Symposium.

To take a personalized stroke risk assessment, go to