There is a good chance that you will personally witness a cardiac arrest in your lifetime.  For me, that's enough of a reason to hope that everyone knows CPR (especially the guy standing next to me if I suddenly drop dead).  Without it, you have little chance of surviving a heart-stopping arrest. 

My business partner, Allegro CEO Craig Hood, recently completed a CPR course and kindly enlightened us on some changes in the way CPR is approached and rendered.  Every year the guidelines change as new information is gathered.  Read these myths, tips and updates and then get signed up for a class!

*  The bad news:  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).  AEDs are used to restart a heart that has stopped beating or is beating too quickly to create a pulse.  It can be administered 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 accidently 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. 

*  Permanent brain damage can occur within 4 minutes.

A heart attack is not the same as a cardiac arrest.  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. 

*  It has been circulated on the Internet that if you are alone at the time of a heart attack you should start coughing vigerously until help comes (Cough CPR).  This myth began because patients undergoing cardiac catheterization may develop abnormal heart beats (arrhythmias) and, in these circumstances, it is sometimes possible for a conscious person on a medical setting to cough forcefully enough until the arrhythmia disapppears or is treated.  According to Dr. Jennifer H. Mieres, spokesperson for the American Heart Assoc. and director of nuclear cardiology/associate professor of clinical medicine at NYU, it is unlikely that cough CPR would be of any benefit in out-of-hospital situations.

*  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 defbrillator 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.

*  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.

*  Heart disease is not a man's disease.  Heart disease is the #1 killer of women.  Know the Heart Attack & Stroke Warning Signs:  Men vs. Women.

* There are known and published risk factors for heart disease.  Are you at risk for a heart attack or stroke?

*  Know the facts about heart disease.

*  Get educated and get involved.  Here are 5 Ways to Celebrate American Heart Month.

Do you have any tips or myths?  Share them please!