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Have a heart and save a life; If you'd feel out of your depth helping someone having a cardiac arrest, you're not alone. LISA SALMON catches up with footballer-turned-actor Vinnie Jones, to find out why he's getting involved with a new hands-on heart campaign.

Byline: LISA SALMON

THIS new year, Hollywood hard man Vinnie Jones has revealed there's a compassionate heart beneath his tough exterior. The menacing movie star is starring in TV adverts urging bystanders to adopt a slightly new approach when resuscitating heart attack victims.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) commercials encourage viewers to forget the kiss of life, and just push hard and fast on the chest.

For untrained bystanders, resuscitating adults with uninterrupted hard chest compressions is more effective than stopping to give often ineffective rescue breaths, says the BHF.

The new campaign was launched after a recent BHF survey discovered nearly half of us are put off helping someone who's collapsed because of a lack of knowledge about cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

However, the BHF urge people not to let a lack of formal training stand in their way and adopt a new approach to saving lives.

"It's all about how to do CPR without the kiss of life, you just put force on the centre of the chest," says Jones.

Jones's wife Tanya had a heart transplant nearly 25 years ago, after her heart collapsed when she was in labour.

"I got involved because of my connection," he explained. "It's a very important thing. If someone keels over on the street in front of you, you can save their life."

Research by the Resuscitation Council UK has shown that doing chest compressions is more effective than mouth-tomouth resuscitation, when performed by people who are not trained in CPR (although, administering the kiss of life is still recommended practice for those who have been trained).

According to the same survey by the BHF, a fifth of us are also worried about the idea of performing the kiss of life - and so campaigners hope a shift in emphasis will encourage more bystanders to help out. "By changing the message to the general public, we really hope that more people will intervene if someone has a cardiac arrest," said Ellen Mason, a BHF senior cardiac nurse.

The campaign suggests people perform CPR while thinking of the Bee Gees classic hit Stayin' Alive, as the track has the correct tempo for chest compressions.

Around 100-120 chest compressions a minute are recommended for someone who's had a cardiac arrest and Stayin' Alive has a tempo of about 100 beats a minute.

"I do CPR to the rhythm of Stayin' Alive in the adverts," says Jones, 47, who admits that despite his wife's heart problems, he has only just learned how to perform CPR himself.

"I hadn't thought about it - the hospital looks after Tanya so well," he explained.

Jones and his wife, whose health is now "fantastic", return to the UK every six months from their home in Los Angeles, for Tanya to have check-ups at Harefield Hospital.

The former footballer said: "Anything to do with the British Heart Foundation is always very close to us.

"Helping with this campaign is just another way to give something back."

The BHF has become the first organisation in the UK, backed by the Resuscitation Council UK, to actively promote hands-only CPR.

While chest compressions with rescue breaths will continue to be part of CPR formal training, Ms Mason explains that those who are untrained are likely to waste time giving ineffective breaths.

"We're really concerned that not enough people intervene when someone has a cardiac arrest," she said.

"The kiss of life can often be daunting for untrained bystanders who want to help when someone's collapsed. If people understand hands-only CPR, it should give them the confidence and the knowhow to help save someone."

In an emergency, Ms Mason explains, individuals should first call 999, before pushing hard and fast in the centre of the person's chest at a tempo similar to that of Stayin' Alive.

She said that adults who have a cardiac arrest have normally had a heart attack and the heart stops pumping.

They still have oxygen in their blood and chest compressions will push the blood up to the brain, keeping it oxygenated and reducing the risk of brain damage.

Chest compressions also increase pressure in the heart, and Ms Mason says there's evidence that if the heart is subsequently given a shock by paramedics, there's more chance of it being effective.

"The main thing is that you're sending oxygen to the brain by artificially circulating some blood, and that buys time until the ambulance crew arrives," she said.

While chest compressions are unlikely to restart someone's heart, the main aim is to improve a person's chances of survival once professional help arrives, she explains. "You're unlikely to get them back to life just by doing this - it's not impossible, but it is unusual."

As the aim is to get oxygen into the body, giving mouth-to-mouth is less effective, as exhaled breath does not contain much oxygen.

Speaking of Jones's involvement in the campaign, Ms Mason added: "Hard and Fast is written on his knuckles, which we hope will stick in people's heads.

"By changing the message to the general public, we really hope that more people will intervene if someone has a cardiac arrest."

How to help * Performing CPR correctly more than doubles a person's chance of survival, according to the BHF.

BHF cardiac nurse Ellen Mason says to perform chest compressions, put one hand in the middle of the chest, roughly between the nipples, put your other hand on top, interlock your fingers and push hard and fast with the heel of the hand to the tune of Stayin' Alive, or another tune with a similar tempo such as Nelly the Elephant.

BHF Heartstart schemes are run in local communities to teach emergency life support. For more information, contact the Heart Helpline on 0300 330 3311, or visit www.bhf.org.uk/heartstart * To find out more about the British Heart Foundation's Hands-only CPR campaign, visit www.bhf.org.uk

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 9, 2012
Words:995
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