In the United States, more than 400,000 victims die from cardiac arrest each year. It’s a very dramatic episode that can happen at any moment with no warning. Quick action is necessary to save a life, especially if no professional medical assistance is nearby to help.
Many will recognize the need for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) but are not clear on how to do CPR. In instances like this, don’t let your fear or doubt take over. Read further on these three simple CPR facts and your actions just might save a life.
Difference Between “Heart Attack” and “Cardiac Arrest”
The term “heart attack” is often mistakenly used to describe cardiac arrest. People sometimes use these terms interchangeably, but they are not the same.
One condition refers to circulation problems affecting the heart. The other condition means the heart has completely stopped beating. Here is a further breakdown between the two conditions:
What Is a Heart Attack?
Heart attacks take place when blood flow to the heart is blocked. A blockage inside your arteries can be cholesterol or fat buildup inside your arteries that slows your blood flow and forms a level of plaque. When the plaque breaks away from your artery walls, you form a clot.
Clots block your blood flow through your arteries and spill cholesterol you’re your bloodstream. Interrupted blood flow can eventually destroy heart muscle tissue and starve your heart of nutrients and oxygen.
Symptoms of a heart attack include:
- Chest pain or discomfort including burning, or numbness;
- Pain in the arms, back, or shoulders;
- Vomiting or nausea;
- Problems breathing or shortness of breath;
- Sweating or a “cold sweat”;
- Dizziness or light-headedness; and
- Rapid or erratic heartbeats.
Heart attack symptoms differ between men and women. Men usually experience sharp chest pains, nausea, and sweating. Women report breathing difficulties, dizziness, or pain in their upper abdomen or lower chest areas.
What Is Cardiac Arrest?
Cardiac arrest is the sudden loss of heart function. Our hearts have a natural group of cells called the SA Node. The SA node sends out electrical signals to our heart chambers to contract and release and cause blood to pump regularly.
Electrical disturbances in your heart will disrupt this normal pumping action. When this happens, the normal blood flow to the rest of your body will also stop.
Cardiac arrest often starts with no warning. The only hints you may have that someone is suffering from cardiac arrests include the following:
- Unexpected collapse;
- Loss of consciousness;
- No breathing; and
- No pulse.
Sometimes other symptoms and signs appear before sudden cardiac arrest. These signs might include:
- Chest pain;
- Breathing or respiration problems;
- Weakness or feebleness; and
- Heart shudders or palpitations.
What Is CPR?
CPR is the abbreviation for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It’s a rescue procedure that includes chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing. Pushing firmly on a victim’s chest helps restore blood flow until medical professionals arrive to administer an electrical shock that restores the heart rhythm.
Simple CPR Steps
CPR should be administered within two minutes after a victim collapses. Here are seven easy steps to remember on how to perform CPR:
- Check the victim’s responsiveness. You can shout their name or tap their chest to see if they react;
- Call 911 emergency help;
- Lay the victim flat and position your hand in the middle of their chest;
- Interlock your fingers from both hands;
- Push down between two and four inches on the center of the victim’s chest, 30 times. Push hard and quickly at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute;
- Open the victim’s airway by lifting their chin and tilting their head back. Give two breaths for every 30 compressions; and
- Continue until emergency crews arrive.
The goal of CPR is to interrupt any further tissue death that might result in the heart. Mouth-to-mouth breathing can also help delay brain damage until medical personnel can arrive.
Simple CPR Takeaway Facts
There’s no doubt about it- CPR can and will help save lives. If you’re still not convinced that you could make a difference to a cardiac arrest victim, remember these three simple CPR takeaway facts:
1. Most cardiac arrests occur outside of the hospital. Most of these locations include nursing homes or personal residences. That means chances are high that you could be helping a family member or loved one.
2. 100 chest compressions per minute will keep a victim’s blood circulating until paramedics arrive. One clever way you can keep track of these compressions is to hum the popular 1977 Bee Gee’s song “Staying Alive” to yourself while you push down. Pump down on the victim’s chest to the beat of “Staying Alive” and you’ll have 100 compressions per minute.
3. Some CPR is better than no CPR at all. Statistics show cardiac arrest victims who receive some form of CPR before paramedics arrive are twice as likely to survive the episode. Untrained bystanders have even been able to administer CPR after getting instructions over the phone from paramedics during the crisis.
If you’re ready to find out how simple CPR can be, contact the American Heart Association to register for a class. They can advise you on in-person and online courses available. Let them help find a format that works best for you.
If you do find yourself in a crisis situation, remember the six simple CPR steps listed above. Stay calm and remember to start humming that popular 1970’s disco hit. Your help could mean the difference between life and death.