Defibrillators must in gyms, public places

Defibrillators must in gyms, public places

Many lives can be saved with emergency response

Representative image. Credit: DH file photo

The tragic demise of Kannada superstar Puneeth Rajkumar has once again drawn attention to the increasing incidence of heart attacks amongst the middle-aged and youngsters, especially those following strenuous exercise regimens. Puneeth was a fitness freak who was known to tax his body to its limits and though doctors attribute his sudden death to genetic disposition considering the family history of heart ailments, over the past few years, there have been several reports of those in their 40s, or even younger, collapsing during or after exercising in gyms. Regular exercises help strengthen the heart and reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems, but high-intensity workouts can have the opposite effect and may lead to a sudden heart attack. But gyms, swimming pools and other exercise centres are woefully unprepared to respond to emergencies.

It has thus become imperative for gyms and gym-goers to follow certain measures, either voluntarily or by regulation. In India, most cases of chest discomfort tend to be dismissed as being due to gastric trouble and as such an underlying heart ailment may go undetected until it is too late. Gym-goers should, in their own interest, consult a doctor and undergo a complete medical evaluation before enrolling for any vigorous physical activity. An analysis of 2,500 patients at the Jayadeva Institute of Cardiology indicated that 30% of them did not have conventional risk factors or a family history of heart ailments. This makes it all the more important for exercise centres to be adequately prepared to handle emergencies.

In most gyms, including reputed chains, instructors are not trained even in basic first-aid techniques such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), an emergency lifesaving procedure that increases the chances of survival after cardiac arrest. While CPR is considered a critical step in the chain of survival as it keeps the blood flow to the brain and heart active at least for some time, often only an automated external defibrillator (AED) device can restore the heart’s normal rhythm. These devices are commercially available and can be operated by anyone. Given the increasing incidence of heart ailments in the Indian population, health experts have for long stressed that AEDs should be available not only in exercise centres like gyms but also at all public places like malls, office buildings, airports and in police vehicles. The government should immediately draw up a standard operating procedure for gyms and other sporting arenas making certain basic emergency services like personnel trained in CPR and availability of AED devices mandatory so that many lives may be saved.