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A heart stopping moment.

Byline: MIKE KNAPTON

THE world was shocked by the death of pop icon Michael Jackson. Although we don't know for sure, it does seem he died of a cardiac arrest.

News about people suffering a cardiac arrest always throws up confusion about what it means. But it's important people are clear about it, as knowing could mean the difference between life and death.

A cardiac arrest and a heart attack are two completely different things. A cardiac arrest is when the heart stops pumping blood around the body because of a disturbance in the normal heart rhythm. A heart attack is when the coronary artery becomes blocked and the heart muscle is starved of blood and oxygen.

A heart attack can sometimes cause a life threatening heart rhythm that leads to a cardiac arrest, but many people have a heart attack and don't have a cardiac arrest. Other causes of a cardiac arrest include electrocution, bleeding, choking or a drugs overdose - it isn't always because of an existing heart condition.

If a person has a cardiac arrest, they lose consciousness almost at once and there are also no other signs of life such as breathing. This is the most extreme emergency and unless someone starts cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) within a few minutes, the person may suffer permanent damage to the brain and other organs.

A cardiac arrest can sometimes be corrected by giving an electric shock through the chest wall, using a defibrillator. This is often successful in restoring a normal heartbeat, and afterwards the person can do just as well as if they had not had the cardiac arrest. The BHF funds defibrillators and also runs an initiative called Heartstart UK, which teaches people what to do in a life-threatening emergency - simple skills that can save lives.

We may never know exactly what caused Michael Jackson to have a cardiac arrest but one thing's for sure: if more people were trained in CPR and if there were more defibrillators, then fewer lives would be lost.

. For more information visit bhf.org.uk/ get involved. Call NHS Wales Direct on 0845 46 47 with health concerns
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 11, 2009
Words:356
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