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Cough CPR to Prevent a Heart Attack: Does it Really Work?

Medically reviewed by Mia Dacumos, MD · Nephrology · Makati Medical Center

Written by Ruby Anne Hornillos · Updated Jun 01, 2021

Cough CPR to Prevent a Heart Attack: Does it Really Work?

Since the 1970s, experts have tried to determine whether cough CPR, or cough-induced cardiac compressions through forceful coughing, could be a good preventive measure for heart attacks.

But more recent research has pushed experts to believe that it is not recommended.

To better understand this, we will need to first define what a heart attack is. It would help to look closer at its signs and symptoms, as well as the prevention or first aid.

A heart attack occurs when the flow of oxygenated blood to a section of the heart’s muscles is blocked.  When this happens, it blocks oxygen delivery to the heart, which could lead to the death of heart muscle.

Why Do Heart Attacks Happen?

Symptoms of a heart attack 

The most common symptoms experienced by patients having a heart attack are chest pain or discomfort, upper body discomfort, and shortness of breath.

Some patients, such as women, elderly, and diabetic patients, may feel no symptoms at all. 

In general, however, patients experiencing a heart attack may experience the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain that radiates to the left arm, both arms, jaw, neck, back, and abdomen
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Abdominal pain or epigastric pain
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sense of anxiety, similar to a panic attack

cough cpr to prevent a heart attack

Cough CPR to Prevent a Heart Attack: Does it Work?

Preventing the occurrence of a heart attack comes in the form of decreasing controllable risk factors. Examples of these are controlling body weight, quitting smoking, decreasing intake of fats, increasing good cholesterol while decreasing bad cholesterol, and controlling blood pressure.

What is cough CPR?

“Cough CPR”, though more familiar, is actually a misnomer.

To call it Cough-Induced Cardiac Compressions, which is not a form of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), would be more accurate.

This is because it plays no role resuscitating patients suffering from cardiac arrest nor does it play a role in preventing a heart attack.

This technique was originally used in a 1970’s study of patients who were suffering from ventricular fibrillation. It was done to keep them conscious during a coronary angiography. 

They were asked to cough forcefully every 1 to 3 seconds. Through this study, researchers found that coughing when an arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) is detected during cardiac catheterization is good for the patient.

Can “cough CPR” prevent and provide aid in a heart attack?

Theoretically, “cough CPR” does increase the pressure within the chest and could help blood flow increase for the patient.

However, this does not resolve the cause of the heart attack, and the patient should still seek consultation as this will not relieve symptoms.

In terms of resuscitation, “cough CPR” has no use, since patients who need cardiopulmonary resuscitation are unconscious. 

First Aid Tips When Dealing with a Heart Attack

Recommendations from regulating authorities

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that the best strategy is to be aware of the warning signs for heart attack, which are a sudden loss of consciousness/responsiveness and no normal breathing, crushing chest pain, cold sweats, etc.

Once seen, emergency services should be performed and resuscitation in the form of hands-only CPR should be performed immediately.

Key Takeaways

Cough-Induced Cardiac Compression (more commonly known as Cough-CPR), or forcibly coughing every 1 to 3 seconds, has proven itself effective in correcting arrhythmias in patients undergoing cardiac catheterization.

However, it shows no benefit at all in patients with cardiac arrest, since these patients cannot perform the procedure in the first place.

In these cases, if a patient is unconscious, with no pulse or breathing, conventional hands-only CPR is the recommended method of resuscitation until emergency help arrives.

Cough-CPR, although having benefits in the cardiac catheterization laboratory, does not have a place in the prevention of heart attacks and resuscitation of patients with cardiac arrest.

Learn more about heart attacks, here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mia Dacumos, MD

Nephrology · Makati Medical Center

Written by Ruby Anne Hornillos · Updated Jun 01, 2021

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