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Surviving a Heart Attack when Alone

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Page updated - 11 March 2007


Imagine youíre driving home, late, after an unusually hard day at work. You are really tired, frustrated and very stressed.


Suddenly you start to experience severe pain in your chest and then this radiates out into your arm and up into your jaw. You are five miles from help but you do not know if you will be able to make it that far. What can you do?


You may have been trained in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) but the person who taught you did not tell you how to conduct it on yourself. Since many people are alone when they suffer a heart attack, without help, the person whose heart is beating improperly and who starts to feel faint only has 10 seconds before they loose consciousness.


Question: What must you do?



  • Do not panic but start coughing repeatedly and very vigorously.

  • A deep breath should be taken before each cough. The cough must be deep and prolonged as when producing sputum from deep inside the chest.

  • A breath and a cough must be repeated about every two seconds without let-up until help arrives or until the heart is felt to be beating normally again.

  • Deep breaths get oxygen into the lungs and the coughing movements squeeze the heart and keep the blood circulating.

  • The squeezing pressure on the heart helps it regain normal rhythm. In this way heart attack victims can get to a hospital.


Pass this information to as many people as possible; it could just save their life. Donít think that because someone is younger than 25yrs this does not mean them because changes in lifestyle now means heart attack can hit all age groups.


[This article appeared in No. 240 of the Journal of Rochester General Hospital, USA]