The American Heart Association defines Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) as “…an emergency lifesaving procedure performed when the heart stops beating…” and is the most immediate form of care for anyone in cardiac arrest.
Heart Attack or Cardiac Arrest?
Before we get into the details of CPR, it’s important to know the difference between sudden cardiac arrest, a heart attack, and heart failure because, while they might sound interchangeable and related or similar, these are three very different heart emergencies:
- Cardiac Arrest: When the heart suddenly stops beating. This can happen as a result of a heart attack but is an electrical problem.
- Heart Attack: When blood flow to part of the heart is blocked. This deprives that area of oxygen and, depending on how long this occurs for, can cause mild to serious issues.
- Heart Failure: The heart is weakened and can’t pump blood and oxygen effectively around the body. This can be caused by a heart attack or high blood pressure and while incurable, is manageable with medication, diet, and lifestyle changes.
Why Is CPR Important?
A sudden cardiac arrest requires immediate attention because, without a beat, the heart cannot move oxygen around the body and death is a real possibility. CPR is a manual way to ensure that blood continues to pump through the patient’s body until a heartbeat is restored, either through the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) or by medical personnel.
CPR is a procedure that anyone can learn, including children, and use to save a life. Most sudden cardiac arrests happen in or near the home and involve those we love, so it’s a vital, universal lifesaving skill that can mean the difference between life and death for anyone.
How Do I Perform CPR?
The best way to learn and remember CPR is through formal training with organizations like The Red Cross or the Heart & Stroke Foundation but you can also learn the basics of CPR by watching a video.
The primary focus of CPR is chest compressions as those force the heart to pump blood around the body, followed by rescue breaths and the use of an AED to “restart” the heart. Here are the key steps to performing CPR [Source: The Red Cross]:
- Push hard, push fast. Place your hands, one on top of the other, in the middle of the chest. Use your body weight to help you administer compressions that are at least 2 inches deep and delivered at a rate of at least 100 compressions per minute*.
- Deliver rescue breaths. With the person’s head tilted back slightly and the chin lifted, pinch the nose shut and place your mouth over the person’s mouth to make a complete seal. Blow into the person’s mouth to make the chest rise. Deliver two rescue breaths, then continue compressions.
- Continue CPR steps. Keep performing cycles of chest compressions and breathing until the person exhibits signs of life, such as breathing, an AED becomes available, or EMS or a trained medical responder arrives on the scene.
*To help you stay on track with compressions, use the song “Staying Alive” to guide and keep your rhythm.
If you’d like to learn more about CPR, check out our other resources:
- 5 Reasons You Should Learn CPR
- 10 Facts About CPR and First Aid Training
- First Aid & CPR Training For Infants & Young Children
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