From the heart, quick tips for cardiac event

Feb 10, 2015 by Keith Murray

When February rolls around, what is the first holiday you think of? If you are in a relationship, you’d better think of Valentine’s Day. And the symbol for Valentine’s day is the heart. So, this month, think about your heart and what would happen if it suddenly stopped beating.

First, I want to explain the difference between sudden cardiac arrest and heart attacks. A lot of people confuse them. Think of it this way, cardiac means heart and arrest means stop. If the person is not breathing, this means they are in cardiac arrest.

Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the electrical impulses in the heart become rapid or chaotic, causing the heart to suddenly stop beating. Think of cardiac arrest as an electrical problem.

A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to part of the heart muscle is blocked. Think of a heart attack as a plumbing problem. If left untreated, however, a heart attack may lead to cardiac arrest.

Statistically, the odds of surviving sudden cardiac arrest are low, less than 8 percent. Your odds of surviving cardiac arrest drop about 10 percent per minute until an AED – Automated External Defibrillator can be used to shock you back to life.

The key to surviving cardiac arrest is fast CPR, fast defibrillation and fast transport to a hospital.

There are two ways to perform CPR. The traditional CPR with 30 compressions and two breaths, and what people call the new CPR, which is hands-only CPR, no mouth-to-mouth.

I’m going to discuss hands-only CPR as this is much easier and safer for the rescuer.

Here are the steps for performing hands-only CPR.

  1. Call. Check the victim for responsiveness. If the person is not responsive and not breathing — or at least, not not breathing normally — call 911 (or radio for help) and return to the victim. Look at the victim’s chest for about seven seconds to see if it is moving. If the chest is not moving, the victim is not breathing and you must begin CPR. In many locations, the emergency dispatcher at 911 can assist you with CPR instructions, or you can begin hands-only CPR.
  2. Pump. Begin chest compressions. Push down in the center of the chest at least 2 inches (on adults) and release, and do it again. Do not stop. Push hard and fast at the rate of at least 100 compressions a minute, faster than once per second. If you can get the old disco song from the Bee Gees “Staying Alive” in your head, that’s the perfect beat, about 100 beats per minute.

Continue with chest compressions until trained personnel arrive or the AED arrives and you are instructed by the AED to stand clear. Remember, the AED must be applied quickly. The faster you apply the AED, the better.

Check out these links for three funny hands-only CPR videos. All are brief and informative.

British Heart Foundation and Vinnie Jones:

American Heart Association and Ken Jeong from “The Hangover” movies:

Canadian Heart Association and zombies:

Two interesting facts from the American Heart Association:

  1. Nearly 383,000 out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests occur annually in the United States; 88 percent of cardiac arrests occur at home.
  2. Effective bystander CPR provided immediately after sudden cardiac arrest can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival, but only 32 percent of cardiac arrest victims get CPR from a bystander.

The hands-only CPR method is intended for people untrained in CPR as well as situations when the rescuer is unable or unwilling to provide mouth-to-mouth ventilations. It is not a substitute for the traditional CPR with compressions and breathing, but it is better than nothing.

Keith Murray, a former firefighter EMT, owns The CPR School, a first-aid training company. He provides onboard training for yacht captains and crew and sells and services AEDs. Contact him at 877-6-AED-CPR, 877-623-3277 or Comments on this column are welcome at


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