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Heart Attack

There are two things you want around if you ever suffer a sudden cardiac arrest or a heart attack.  One is an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) and the other is a person who can administer CPR.  Without these, you have little chance of surviving a heart-stopping arrest. 

What is the difference between a Cardiac Arrest and a Heart Attack? A heart attack is caused by blocked blood flow to the heart muscle, causing it to begin to die.  Sudden cardiac arrest is caused by life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms – abnormalities in the heart’s electrical system.  The most common arrhythmia is ventricular fibrillation. 

A heart attack is often preceded by chest, arm, upper abdomen, shoulder or jaw pain.  It may also, especially in women, be accompanied by dizziness, sweating, vomiting and nausea.  There is rarely a warning before sudden cardiac arrest.  Heart attack victims usually remain conscious.  Sudden cardiac arrest victims always lose consciousness. 

Lives are rarely saved by CPR.  In fact, the survival rate for out-of-hospital CPR is estimated to be between 1 and 3 percent.  The good news is that survival rates are much improved if you know CPR and they are especially improved if you have access to an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) .   That’s why you need both.

AEDs are used to restart a heart that has stopped beating or is beating too quickly to create a pulse.  They can be used by anyone.  Even you.   The instructions are spoken to you directly from the machine itself.  AEDs will only work if the heart is in a position to benefit from the shock (they won’t even fire otherwise, so you can’t accidentally shock someone who doesn’t need it!). 

Despite what you have seen in the movies, CPR will not “make the heart start”.  Rather, it simulates the beating of the heart, thereby assisting the circulation of oxygenated blood to vital organs.  This essentially keeps the blood moving and the brain alive until advanced support techniques can be provided by an AED or similar device.   Time is your worst enemy in the case of a sudden cardiac arrest.  Permanent brain damage can occur within 4 minutes.

Research has shown that performing CPR on a cardiac arrest victim prior to shocking with an AED makes the heart much more likely to respond.  The only exception is if the defibrillator is with the victim when the heart stops (unlikely).  If so, use it right away.

Research shows that cardiac arrest victims are unlikely to respond to a second or third succssive shock if the first doesn’t work.  They are, in fact, much more likely to respond to a repeat shock after two minutes of CPR.

Do you know CPR?  Even if you can’t remember all the techniques and ratios you were taught, doing CPR badly is better than doing nothing at all.  Remember, the person has no pulse.  They are essentially dead.  You can’t make it worse.

How to Save a Life in Two Steps (even if you are untrained in CPR):

1.  Call 9-1-1

2.  Push hard and fast in the center of the victims chest.  Don’t be afraid, just do it.  I mean, wouldn’t you want someone to do it for you if you were dying?  You can only help.  Keep doing compressions until an AED arrives and is ready for use or an EMS provider takes over. 

This is called “Hands-Only CPR”.  Studies show that these two steps can be as effective as conventional CPR (chest compressions plus mouth-to-mouth).  Providing Hands-Only CPR to an adult who has collapsed from a sudden cardiac arrest can more than double their chance of survival.

*  How fast should you push on the chest?  103 beats per minute.  That is exactly the beats per minute in the disco song “Stayin’ Alive”.  A study by the Univ. of Illinois found that 10 docs and 5 med students who listened to the song while practicing CPR not only performed perfectly, they remember the technique five weeks later.

*  If you have been trained in CPR and you are confident in your abilities to provide rescue breaths with minimal interruptions in chest compressions, then you should provide either conventional CPR using a 30:2 compression-to-ventilation ratio or Hands-Only CPR.  Whichever you use, you need to continue it right up until the moment that an AED is ready to use, or an EMS provider takes over.

Be ready to help someone.  Get online CPR Training!  And buy an AED for your home, office, boat, cabin…  It may save your life or the life of someone near you.

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