he holiday season brings many joys, but it can also bring additional stressors to your life. The American Heart Association reports that cardiac mortalities spike during the winter holiday season, with almost 5 percent more people experiencing a fatal cardiac event during the holidays than at any other time of the year. We reached out to Dr. Pratik Agrawal of LSU Health Shreveport for information on cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and how you can use it to help save someone’s life.
Imagine seeing a loved one, or even a stranger, suddenly drop down to the floor without a pulse right in front of you, and you are clueless about what to do next to save them until you receive medical help. Cardiac arrest is when the heart stops beating, and an emergency procedure such as hands-only CPR (which anyone can learn to perform) can indeed be lifesaving in this situation.
It is well known that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world. According to the American Heart Association, there are more than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests each year alone in the United States. High-quality CPR, especially when performed in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, can increase a person’s chance of survival by almost 2-3 times.
Read on to learn the basics of performing high-quality CPR to prepare yourself to be able to save someone’s life someday.
What is cardiac arrest, and how is it different than a heart attack? Cardiac arrest is when the heart stops beating, and there’s no pulse. A heart attack is when there is decreased blood supply to the heart muscle (for example: due to a ruptured blockage in a blood vessel), but the heart is still beating. CPR is a lifesaving procedure during a cardiac arrest, but not for a heart attack.
Every second counts. Immediately ask for help if you have someone nearby. Call 9-1-1 (or the local emergency number) and try to locate an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) in your immediate surrounding. AED is a small-sized machine used to electrically shock the heart and is commonly installed at public places.
- Look for a pulse. You can assess whether a pulse is present by placing the tip of yourindexandmiddlefingersoneither side of the neck next to the windpipe of the person. If you don’t feel a pulse, immediately begin CPR.
- Perform CPR. With both your hands on top of each other, use the base of your palm to push down on the center of the chest. Aim to push hard and fast at around 100-120 chest compressions every minute. Make sure you are allowing the chest to recoil back up to its normal position between pushes.
- Check periodically for a pulse. After every two minutes of chest compressions, check for a pulse on either side of the neck. If you still don’t feel a pulse, continue providing CPR until formal medical help arrives. Aim for minimal interruptions between chest compressions.
More than two-thirds of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen in homes. If you would like formal training in CPR, consider attending an instructional class or course conducted by the American Heart Association. You can be the difference for someone you love.
Pratik Agrawal, MD | Assistant Professor, Division of Cardiology, LSU Health Shreveport