World Heart Day on the 29th of September aims to create awareness around cardiovascular diseases, which are disorders of the heart and/or blood vessels, and its prevention.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), things like tobacco use, an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol can trigger diseases like a heart attack or stroke. Uncontrollable risks are factors like age, gender and family history.
As a potential bystander in an emergency situation, do you know what to do when you encounter a cardiac arrest in your home, at work or out and about?
Hands-Only CPR is a recommended form of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and can be used on teens and adults. This form of CPR can be used by lay rescuers who have not been trained in CPR or who have received training but feel uncertain about or unwilling to perform ventilation. The American Heart Association (AHA) states that immediate CPR from someone nearby can double - even triple - their chance of survival.
How to perform hands-only CPR:
When you find someone unconscious and unresponsive, try and rouse them. Check whether they are breathing. If you cannot wake them and they are not breathing or gasping, emergency help must be called immediately. Lay the person on their back on a flat surface.
Call ER24 on 084 124. If possible, place the phone on speaker next to you. The emergency call taker will provide you with telephonic assistance. Remain calm and speak clearly.
Start chest compressions immediately if there are no signs of life. Push hard and fast in the centre of the chest at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute. 5-6 cm deep for adults and 4 cm deep for children.
Continue to perform chest compressions until the person revives or when professional help arrives on the scene.
Dr Robyn Holgate, ER24's Chief Medical Officer, explains why effective CPR is of the utmost importance when a patient is in cardiac arrest.
"Cardiac arrest is synonymous with clinical death. Early CPR improves the flow of blood and oxygen to vital organs, an essential component of treating cardiac arrest. The earlier you give CPR to somebody in cardiac arrest, the higher their chance of survival. CPR should be started as soon as possible and interrupted as little as possible.
"The component of CPR which seems to make the greatest difference is chest compressions. Once chest compressions have commenced, place an AED on the patient's chest if there is one available. This will help to analyse and identify a shockable rhythm. Early defibrillation (with an AED, or defibrillator as soon as the EMS arrives within the first few minutes of cardiac arrest) is the only effective treatment in the management of ventricular fibrillation.
"If defibrillation is delayed, the rhythm is likely to degenerate into asystole, for which outcomes are worse. The sequence of critical events most likely to improve survival includes early identification of the cardiac arrest and notification of emergency services (call 084 124), performing CPR with minimal interruptions to chest compressions, confirming the rhythm and early defibrillation if indicated, and advanced life support care. Learn CPR for the sake of your loved ones," said Robyn.
Sources: WHO.int, American Heart Association
Peer reviewed by Heinrich Africa.