False: One can stop a heart attack by coughing and breathing heavily when alone.

By: Gayathri Loka
August 2 2022

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False: One can stop a heart attack by coughing and breathing heavily when alone.


The Verdict False

Cough CPR is a myth spread on social media. It is not recommended to help prevent a heart attack and should not be attempted.

Claim ID a0b957bc



A recent Facebook post discussed how one could prevent a heart attack by breathing heavily and coughing. A part of the post's caption said, "Breathing and coughing should be repeated every two seconds and held until help is provided, or until the heart returns to normal. Deep breathing gives oxygen into your lungs, and through the coughing movements you squeeze the heart and maintain blood circulation." The post also has images of two men clenching their chests in pain.


In fact:

The post refers to a method called cough CPR, which has not been proven effective by any medical organization. According to the British Heart Foundation (BHF), "there is no medical evidence to support 'cough CPR,' which suggests you can help yourself by coughing vigorously if you think you're having a heart attack and are alone." BHF also stated that cough CPR is a myth spread on social media and should not be considered a step to help a person with a heart attack.


All medical organizations recommend calling an emergency line or ambulance if a person has a heart attack. According to Cleveland Clinic, many people confuse a heart attack with cardiac arrest. A heart attack is when the heart's oxygen supply gets cut off, usually when arteries are blocked. A cardiac arrest is when the heart suddenly stops beating, causing an irregularity. A heart attack can lead to a cardiac arrest if it stops pumping blood throughout the body, according to BHF.


Dr. Steven Nissen, a cardiologist from Cleveland Clinic, said, "Cough CPR is an effective way to maintain circulation for a minute or two following cardiac arrest. However, it's not useful for a heart attack patient and shouldn't delay calling 911."


According to the American Heart Association (AHA), cough CPR is not a form of traditional resuscitation. During a sudden arrhythmia, a person may cough heavily to maintain blood flow to the brain to remain conscious for a few minutes; this is mistaken as cough CPR. This method may be temporarily used in laboratory settings where patients are conscious and constantly monitored. AHA states, "A nurse or physician can instruct and coach the patients to cough forcefully every one to three seconds during the initial seconds of a sudden arrhythmia. But because it's not effective in all patients, it shouldn't delay definitive treatment."


According to medical advice, attempting to practice cough CPR might delay a person from calling for help, which could lead to a cardiac arrest. 


The verdict:

Medical organizations do not recommend cough CPR to help prevent heart attacks when one is alone. Some doctors may ask conscious patients to do it, but only in monitored environments. People are recommended to call emergency lines immediately on suspecting a heart attack. Hence we have marked this claim as false.

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