Here’s why all runners should know how to perform CPR

Whether you're a runner or a spectator, if you see someone collapse mid-race, knowing the danger signs to look out for and how to react quickly can be the difference between life and death. We take a look at the symptoms of a heart attack and cardiac arrest, and more importantly, when you should administer CPR. 

HEART ATTACK - THE SYMPTOMS AND WHAT TO DO 

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to a section of the heart is restricted. The primary culprit is coronary heart disease, which causes plaque to build up in the arteries; if the plaque ruptures, it creates a blood clot that can block blood flow to a portion of the heart. Without sufficient oxygen, the muscle begins to die. The longer treatment is delayed, the greater the damage.

Symtoms include: 

- Pain in upper abdomen, chest, arms or jaw, or between shoulder blades

- Tightness in chest, neck, arm

- Abnormal heartbeat

- Lightheadedness or dizziness

- Unusual level of fatigue

- Cold sweat

- Indigestion, nausea, vomiting

- Shortness of breath

What to do: 

Call 999 or get someone to drive you to casualty.

Related: Everything you need to know about running and your heart 

CARDIAC ARREST - THE SYMPTOMS AND WHAT TO DO 

Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops beating and blood flow to the brain and organs stops. When the heart’s electrical system fails, it can cause arrhythmias. The arrhythmia that causes Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is ventricular fibrillation. SCA can also occur after a heart attack or during recovery from one; heart attacks can increase your risk for SCA. Without treatment, death can occur in eight to 10 minutes.

Symptoms include: 

- Eyes rolling back into head

- Unconsciousness

- Lack of breathing

- Turning blue

- No pulse

What to do: 

Call 999, then start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). If available, use an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), which delivers an electrical shock to restore heartbeat.

HOW TO GIVE CPR 

If an adult is unresponsive and not breathing, St John Ambulance recommend CPR – a combination of chest compressions and rescue breaths to keep the heart and circulation going. For detailed information, go to sja.org.uk, but here are the basics:

1. First, check for responsiveness and breathing. Open their airway by placing one hand on their forehead, two fingers under the chin and tilting the head back. If they’re unconscious and not breathing call 999 or 112 for emergency medical help.

2. Place the casualty on their back on a firm, flat surface. Kneel down beside them, positioning yourself next to their shoulder/level with their chest.

3. Place the heel of one hand in the centre of the casualty’s chest (below the breastbone, the area where the ribs come together). Place the other hand on top. Lace your fingers together, making sure you keep your fingers off their ribs.

4. With straight arms, press down on the breastbone 5-6cm. Release pressure. Let the chest come up fully – that’s one compression. Repeat 30 times, twice a second, then give two rescue breaths: pinch their nose closed, breathe in, seal your lips around their mouth and blow into their mouth until the chest rises. Remove your mouth and let the chest fall.

5. Carry on giving 30 chest compressions, then two breaths, until help arrives.

Watch next: How to give CPR - St John's Ambulance