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Archive for April, 2013


Posted on: April 28th, 2013 by Gemma


They’re both deadly, but would you know which was which in an emergency?


Of all the medical conditions, cardiac arrest and heart attacks are perhaps the best known and least understood. Here’s the problem:


1. Both can quickly prove fatal

2. They each require radically different treatments.

3. Most people don’t know the difference between them.


To help explain things, let’s think about it like a car analogy. Imagine you’re driving a car and the fuel pipe feeding petrol to the engine becomes blocked, leading the car to splutter and not work properly. This, basically, is a heart attack.


Now, imagine you’re driving the same car and the whole thing breaks down entirely. There’s no engine turnover, no electrics working, nothing. That’s a cardiac arrest.


Serious emergencies


In simple terms, a heart attack is a basic plumbing problem – a blocked artery is stopping blood and oxygen getting through to the brain, damaging the heart muscle.


By contrast, cardiac arrest is most frequently an electrical problem, where a ‘short circuit’ prevents the heart from pumping blood around the body. (Although actually, just as a car with no petrol will eventually cut out, a heart attack can sometimes lead to cardiac arrest.)


They really are very different conditions. Daft as it may sound, confusing them is a bit like mixing up how to help a burn casualty and someone who was drowning. (For reference, just imagine someone being pulled out a swimming pool then having cold water poured over them for ten minutes.)


Given that the treatment for each condition is so wildly different, it’s vital that you can recognise the symptoms and act accordingly.


Cardiac arrest


If someone suddenly collapses, and is unconscious and not breathing, there is no time to lose.


1. Call 999 as soon as possible, or get someone else to do it.

2. Push firmly downwards in the middle of the chest and then release.

These are called chest compressions. This keeps blood pumping around their body and helps keep the vital organs, including the brain, alive.

3. Push at a regular rate until help arrives.


Heart attack


The casualty has a persistent, vice-like chest pain, which may spread to their arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach.


1. Call 999 immediately or get someone else to do it.

2. Make sure they are sitting in a comfortable position.

This will ease the strain on the heart. Sitting them on the floor means they are less likely to hurt themselves if they collapse.

3. Give them constant reassurance while waiting for the ambulance.


With both these very serious conditions, prompt action can literally mean the difference between life and death. Spend just a minute reading over these instructions now, and one day someone might really thank you for it.