Features June 2018 Issue

Why You Should Learn CPR

When someone suffers a cardiac arrest, using this simple intervention to restore the heartís rhythm may save their life and help prevent brain damage from occurring.

More than 350,000 times a year in homes and public places throughout the U.S., someone’s heart starts beating so fast and erratically that it is unable to pump blood effectively. In a split second, the person collapses and lies motionless on the ground without a pulse.

This is cardiac arrest, an event that 90 percent of people do not survive when it occurs outside a hospital. That’s why learning how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is important.

cpr class

© sturti | Getty Images

To gain confidence in your ability to perform CPR, check with your local YMCA, fire station, high school or American Heart Association office for classes open to the public.

When started early and done effectively, CPR significantly increases the likelihood that a victim of cardiac arrest will survive without suffering any permanent damage.

“CPR is a simple intervention that anyone can master with little training, yet the magnitude of its effect is incomparable,” says Venu Menon, MD, Director of the Coronary Care Unit at Cleveland Clinic. Many people who suffer sudden cardiac death are in the prime of life and otherwise healthy. “It’s an unexpected, random event that any one of us could witness at any time. It could happen to someone we love or to a stranger,” he says.

CPR Recently Changed

For years, CPR was taught in two steps: Breathe into the person’s mouth to inflate their lungs; then make a fist and push rapidly on their chest with your hands. But in 2015, the American Heart Association revised its CPR guidelines to emphasize chest compressions and deemphasize the need for mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in all but drowning victims.

“We wanted to make CPR simpler by focusing on one thing: restoring the heart’s rhythm and effectiveness. This applies to most people with cardiac arrest,” says Dr. Menon, who served on the AHA’s CPR and Emergency Cardiac Care Committee prior to the change in guidelines.

They also felt it would less intimidating, when the victim is unknown or unrelated.

“This eliminates the common concern of needing to perform mouth-to-mount resuscitation. Focusing on restoring cardiac rhythm eliminates this concern,” he says.

How and When to Do CPR

When you see someone on the ground, quickly check their neck for a pulse and speak to them. If they are unresponsive and have no pulse, start CPR immediately and ask someone to call 911 or get a defibrillator.

Rapidly compress their chest 100-120 times per minute. Don’t worry about hurting the person. “Push hard, but make sure you allow the chest to bounce back before pushing again. It’s very important that you don’t stop until a trained professional arrives,” he advises. You’ll be glad you did.

“We never know when we will be called on to save a life, or whose it will be,” says Dr. Menon.

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