Strokes and heart attacks are some of the leading causes of death worldwide. In the US alone, about 805,000 people have a heart attack yearly, which averages out to an episode every 40 seconds. What makes heart attacks so dangerous is that many people are unaware of the symptoms. This missing information leads to severe complications and often death, so knowing the symptoms of a heart attack is vital. Signs of a heart attack or stroke are more than a rapid, pounding heart. Doctors have created the BE FAST acronym to identify the most common symptoms and prevent fatal complications.
BE + FAST
For years, doctors used the acronym FAST to help people easily recognize symptoms of a cardiac event. FAST stands for changes in the face, arm, speech, and time. However, over time, doctors also realized there are other vital symptoms often overlooked, leading to slow response times. This acronym has been updated to add B and E, which stands for balance and eyes.
With heart attacks, balance problems are a crucial symptom sometimes overlooked. Balance problems can present as dizziness, trouble walking, or difficulty sitting. A common cause of balance problems is having a blood clot or blockage in the artery that supplies blood to the brain.
Look at the eyes
Heart attacks can also cause sudden vision changes and, in some cases, even vision loss. Sometimes people may experience blurry vision and loss of peripheral vision. With most heart attacks, any vision loss is temporary and should resolve within a few days. However, this symptom can persist for extended periods if the heart attack also causes brain damage.
Another key symptom of a heart attack is drooping of the face. This is due to damage to the blood vessels in the muscles that control the eye. This damage can affect the head and the face muscles, resulting in drooping of the eyes, mouth, nose, and jaw. In most cases, a face droop occurs during the early stages of a heart attack before the patient begins to experience other symptoms. However, as the heart continues to malfunction, face droop can become more severe.
In addition to the face, the arm can show signs of a heart attack. In most cases, arm weakness will manifest as numbness and tingling in the hand, arm, and shoulder. Often, the right arm will be stronger than the other. The fingers are the most common part of the body that experiences numbness. This symptom is caused by damage to the nerve cells that control the arm muscles.
The next key indicator of a heart attack is the person's speech. With a cardiac event, the person has trouble pronouncing certain words. Again, blood flow to the brain is reduced, shutting down essential functions like speech. This can be a scary experience and a sign to get help immediately.
The last letter in the acronym is not a symptom per se but the most critical part of BE FAST. The T stands for time to call 911. When an individual is experiencing or noticing the abovementioned symptoms, call 911 immediately and ask for help. Calling emergency services can be the difference between life and death.
Be fast and save lives
Heart attacks are potentially fatal to people of all different ages. This medical emergency can happen anytime and anywhere. Balance and eye problems, face drooping, arm weakness, and slurred speech clearly indicate a heart attack. When this happens, waste no time calling 911. Knowing and remembering the BE FAST symptoms can save a person’s life.