December 12, 2014 by

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), for every minute a cardiac arrest victim goes without life-saving CPR and defibrillation, the chances of survival decreases 7 to 10 percent. Learning the basics of CPR is especially vital for seniors.

The statistics are frightening: About 92 percent of sudden cardiac arrest victims die before reaching the hospital.  “But if more people knew CPR, more lives could be saved,” says Jennifer Redmond, executive director of the AHA. “Immediate CPR can double, or even triple, a victim’s chance of survival. What most people don’t realize, is that almost 80 percent of cardiac arrests occur at home. So most likely, the life you save will be that of a loved one.”

Several years ago, the AHA issued guidelines for hands-only CPR, hoping that this would encourage the use of CPR among bystanders.

“Hands-Only CPR is recommended for use by people who see a teen or adult suddenly collapse in an “out-of-hospital” setting such as at home, at work, or in a park,” explains Redmond. “In a national survey, Americans who had not been trained in CPR within the past five years said they would be more likely to perform hands-only CPR than conventional CPR on a teen or adult who collapses suddenly.”

However, there are times when conventional CPR with rescue breathing may provide more benefit than hands-only CPR. The AHA recommends CPR with a combination of breaths and compressions for all infants up to age 1; children up to puberty; anyone found already unconscious and not breathing normally; any victims of drowning, drug overdose, collapse due to breathing problems, or prolonged cardiac arrest.

To administer chest compressions correctly, place the heel of your hand in the middle of the chest on the breastbone between the nipples. Put your other hand on top of the first with your fingers interlaced. Compress the chest at least two inches at a rate of 100 compressions per minute.

Haysam Akkad, MD, an interventional cardiologist at The Nebraska Medical Center, stresses the use of hard, fast chest compressions, which keeps the blood circulating to vital organs. “You want to see the chest wall moving up and down,” he says. He also recommends that you always start CPR immediately and then call for help. Chest compressions should continue until help arrives. If an AED is close by, use that instead of CPR, he says.

Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of cardiovascular death and is not the same as a heart attack. Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when electrical impulses in the heart become rapid or chaotic, which causes the heart to suddenly stop beating.  A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to part of the heart muscle is blocked. A heart attack may cause cardiac arrest. Currently, only about 41 percent of cardiac arrest victims get CPR from a bystander.

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