No one wants to think about being caught in a situation where they might be responsible for saving someone’s life. But heart attacks can and do happen. It is better to be prepared just in case you end up in that small group of people who suddenly find themselves needing to perform CPR.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recently published new guidelines for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. After conducting research, the folks at the AHA found that, for a variety of reasons, when someone suddenly collapses in cardiac arrest, people often don’t start any type of CPR. One of the barriers, they believe, is that people think it’s fairly complicated to do CPR. But the new guidelines stress simple chest compressions, which are, according to the experts, something everyone can learn to do.
The simplified form of CPR focuses on giving chest compressions to keep the blood — and the oxygen in the blood — flowing to the heart and brain. The AHA’s advice comes on the heels of studies done in the past year showing that a compression-only approach is as good or better than compression plus mouth-to-mouth.
Why are chest compressions considered the most effective way of helping someone going into cardiac arrest? Chest compressions actually act like an artificial heart, pumping blood to the heart and brain, boosting reserves of oxygen in these vital organs.
The American Heart Association still recommends that, if an adult is unresponsive and not breathing or is having occasional unusual breaths that sound like gasping, any bystander should first call 911 and then begin chest compressions. They also advise that if someone else is nearby, send that person in search of an automatic external defibrillator — a device that can shock the heart back into normal rhythm.
So, once again, to give someone in cardiac arrest the best chance of survival:
–call 911 and kick-start the EMS (emergency medical services) system;
–perform CPR in the form of chest compressions; and
–locate and use a defibrillator if available.
The most important thing is to get blood and oxygen moving as quickly as possible. After compressions have been performed, then airways and breathing can be attended to.
The new AHA guidelines also stress the need to push hard and fast when doing chest compressions, whether you’re trained or not. Compressions should be done to a depth of at least two inches and at a rate of at least 100 times a minute. However, it points out that it’s very important NOT to lean on the chest between compressions. Make sure you come all the way up because the heart fills with blood when you come off the chest. It’s physically challenging to compress a human chest, according to the experts at the AHA, so if you’re doing it right, it should be tiring.