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World Heart Day: Don’t ignore signs, CPR can save lives

Experts feel that over half the victims of sudden cardiac arrest can be saved if cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is taught to even one percentage of the country’s population.

health and fitness Updated: Sep 29, 2016 10:59 IST
Electrocardiogram line on heart monitor.
Electrocardiogram line on heart monitor.(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Doctors at a private hospital recently revived a 50-year-old man whose heart’s electrical activity flat lined for almost four minutes. He was given continuous cardiac massage, electric shock and cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) while being shifted to the catheterisation lab.

“Most patients respond within a few minutes of receiving shock but he was unresponsive for a long time, and we thought we were going to lose him. Still, we didn’t give up, and luckily we succeeded” said Dr Naresh Goyal, head (clinical cardiology), Max Hospital, Shalimar Bagh.

It is estimated that over 24 lakh people die in the country every year with sudden cardiac arrest. Nearly 18 lakh of them die before reaching the hospital. Experts feel that over half the victims of sudden cardiac arrest can be saved if cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is taught to even one percentage of the country’s population.

“CPR could be a life saver, and should be performed on any person who seems to be unresponsive,” says Dr Praveen Chandra, chairman, interventional cardiology, Medanta- The Medicity.

Resuscitation has to begin as early as possible, especially under five minutes, to prevent irreversible damage to the brain because of snapped oxygen supply.

“Even if one doesn’t know the correct way of giving a CPR, one must make an effort as in absence of help the patient may be sinking anyway; sometimes even a chest thump works wonders,” says Dr Purshottam Lal, chief cardiologist, Metro Heart Institute, Noida.

Fortis Escorts Heart Institute chairman, Dr Ashok Seth, said they have revived a person even after 45 minutes of vigorous resuscitation. “It is possible to revive a person, despite a flat electrocardiogram (ECG) for a few minutes. But the resuscitation must be effective,” he said.

The patient should be rushed to a hospital within an hour of the attack for anti-clotting medicines to work best. Angioplasty—prising open blocked vessels using stents — is effective within 12 hours of an attack.

Being aware of the warning signs helps identify when a person suffers a heart attack. Some signs include pain in the upper part of the body — chest, neck, arms, back etc., — which isn’t movement related, breathlessness, sweating or, at times, nausea.

Though changing lifestyles to prevent a heart attack is the biggest life saver, there is hope as deaths from heart attacks decreased from 15% to 3% over 40 years, said experts.

It is because of advanced blood thinners, sophisticated cardiac support devices, improved techniques and more hospitals equipping themselves to deal with cardiac emergencies, they said.

“We are getting more heart patients and lifestyle is a major contributing factor. (Changing) it is the simplest way to prevent a heart disease,” says Dr Chandra.

Keep in mind while doing CPR

Start compressions within 10 seconds of recognising a cardiac arrest
Push hard, push fast: At least 100 compressions per minute with a depth of at least 2 inches for adults
Allow complete chest recoil after each compression
Minimise interruptions between compressions to fewer than 10 seconds
Give effective breathing that makes the chest rise
Avoid excessive ventilation
Never practice CPR on people, use dummies
If ribs break during CPR, don’t worry
After successful CPR, take victim to hospital
Always do CPR on the floor or a hard bed
Alternate cardiac massage on the chest after every two minutes