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Over 475,000 Americans die from cardiac arrest every year and 350,000 of those incidents occur outside the hospital. Cardiac arrest has taken more lives globally than colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, influenza, pneumonia, auto accidents, HIV, firearms and house fires combined. While these numbers might seem scary, knowing how you can help can potentially save a life.
When a person’s heart stops beating, they have gone into cardiac arrest. The American Heart Association states that cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, is an emergency procedure performed on people who have no pulse or are not breathing due to cardiac arrest. When CPR is done correctly, it can double or triple a person’s chance of survival when executed immediately after the initial arrest. CPR alone will not save a life but it can delay death until the person can get to a hospital.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer three tips that you can execute if you see someone go into cardiac arrest:
Call 9-1-1 immediately or ask someone to call for you.
Give CPR Push down on the chest hard at a rate of 100 to 120 pushes a minute. Time your pushes to the beat of the song “Stayin’ Alive.” This will help the blood circulate to the heart so it can continue to beat.
Continue to give CPR until the ambulance arrives.
Even though CPR heightens survival rates, many people do not learn CPR for various reasons, some of which are misguided. Let’s separate some misconceptions about CPR by exposing fact from fiction.
Fiction: Cardiac arrest and heart attacks are the same
Fact: Cardiac arrest is when the heart stops because of an electrical disturbance in the heart that stops blood flow to the brain. Blockages in blood flow to the heart cause heart attacks. While some heart attacks lead to cardiac arrest, they are not the same.
Fiction: Only those who are old and sick need CPR
Fact: Cardiac arrest can happen to anyone regardless of age, gender or race.
Fiction: CPR is the same for infants, children, and adults.
Fact: The basics of CPR are the same for everyone, but there are some important differences to know. The most important difference is that children and infants require less force during chest compressions and rescue breaths.
Fiction: You can be sued for performing CPR if you hurt the victim.
Fact: Injuries, like broken ribs, can happen while performing CPR, but there are general laws that protect those who provide life-saving assistance.
Fiction: Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is required.
Fact: Providing chest compressions alone can offer the same results as standard CPR with rescue breathing. The American Heart Association has recommended chest-compression-only CPR since 2008.
Fiction: CPR will always work.
Fact: Unfortunately, the survival rate of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests is less than 10 percent. CPR can, however, increase survival rates by 30 percent if started immediately, and followed by electric shocks from a defibrillator or a machine that delivers electric shocks to the heart.
Fiction: CPR is used only to help the heart to keep beating.
Fact: If victims of cardiac arrest are left too long without aid, they can suffer major brain damage that can cause many more issues. Along with its life-saving abilities, CPR helps blood and oxygen reach the brain thus reducing the risk of brain damage.
Fiction: Once you learn CPR, you’ll never forget it
Fact: Procedures for CPR are always changing and improving. It is important to take recertification classes every two years to keep up with the latest information.
Fiction: I can get certified online or by watching videos
Fact: Videos and online materials and great resources, but they only cover the basics of CPR. To become fully certified, you must take an in-person training session.
Fiction: There aren’t many places where I can get certified
Fact: Because CPR can save so many lives, the American Heart Association and the Red Cross offer classes frequently in your community. To find out where you can take a class, go to their websites and find the class closest to you.
If you are interested in becoming CPR certified, visit the American Heart Association website to learn more. Join in the effort to save lives.
“CPR Facts and Stats.” The American Heart Association
“Three things you may not know about CPR.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
“CPR Information and Health Training Resource Guide.” Regis College of Nursing
“CPR, Separating Fact from Fiction.” U.S. News and World Report
“Rescue Breathing vs. Chest Compression CPR.” Response Institute
The Live Better Team
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.