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Why everyone should learn CPR and how to use an AED

Wednesday, October 11, 2023 12:07 PM

By NorthShore – Edward-Elmhurst Health

Everyone has heard of CPR. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is a common technique that’s simple in execution, yet the payoff is far from simple. You could literally save someone’s life, if you know what to look for and take this action.

Cardiac arrest affects the heart muscle’s electrical system, causing the heart to suddenly stop beating. It can be the result of a heart attack (blocked blood flow to the heart), a heart rhythm problem or trauma.

Cardiac arrest is often fatal without immediate treatment. After a person loses consciousness, the chance of survival decreases by 10 percent every minute. About 9 in 10 people who experience cardiac arrest outside the hospital do not survive.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation can double or triple someone’s chances of surviving a cardiac arrest.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), survival rates for the more than 350,000 cardiac arrests that happen outside the hospital each year are staggering: almost 90 percent will die.

Even though prompt bystander CPR can vastly increase a victim’s chance for survival, only 32 percent of cardiac arrest sufferers receive aid from a bystander.

What’s more, 88 percent of non-hospital cardiac arrests happen at home, so there’s a good chance a loved one may need to provide emergency care until the paramedics arrive.

cprHands-Only CPR

CPR saves lives because it can help keep oxygen and blood flowing to the unconscious person’s brain until emergency medical technicians arrive to administer advanced lifesaving techniques.

Without it, someone whose heart has stopped could die in less than 10 minutes.

Years ago, cardiopulmonary resuscitation involved a hands component and a mouth-to-mouth component. People performing CPR would alternate chest compressions with breathing.

But in 2008, the AHA said CPR is effective when performed hands-only. This was recommended because compressions are the most important part of the technique, and to encourage more people to jump in if they see someone collapse in cardiac arrest.

The steps are easy to remember:

  1. Call 911.
  2. Check whether the person is unconscious, and if so, whether they have a pulse
  3. If there is no pulse, begin pressing hard and fast in the center of the person’s chest. The AHA advises Hands-Only CPR should be done to the beat of the Bee Gees’ classic disco song “Stayin’ Alive.” The song is 100 beats per minute.

If there is an automated external defibrillator (AED) available, send someone to grab it right away.

Automated external defibrillators

An AED can help restore a normal heart rhythm in someone with no pulse. When performed in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, CPR and use of an AED can greatly increase a person’s chance of survival.

It takes, on average, 8-12 minutes for first responders to arrive following a call to 911. That’s why it’s important to learn how and when to use an AED.

It may sound intimidating, but it’s very easy to use. In fact, when you turn the AED on, voice prompts will walk you through each step. It not only provides a lifesaving shock but will also tell the user when a shock is advised and when it’s not.

AEDs are located in most public places. Look for a clearly labeled sign. The AED should be available 24 hours a day.

Even though these lifesaving measures are simple to do and use, it’s worth the time to get trained in CPR and AED use. There are classes you can attend in person, as well as online courses.

Your heart is in good hands when you choose us for cardiovascular care. Learn more about our high-quality heart care.