American Heart Association urges the public to act in cardiac emergencies to help save lives

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National CPR and AED Awareness Week is observed during the first week of June 1 to raise awareness and increase the number of people who perform CPR in cardiac arrest emergencies. Each year, more than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the United States. About 90 percent of people who suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests die. That’s why this year, the American Heart Association – the world’s leading voluntary organization dedicated to building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke – is highlighting the importance of bystander CPR.

Sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, at any time. Sudden cardiac arrest is most often caused by a heart attack, but it can also be caused by trauma, an overdose, or drowning. In sudden cardiac arrest the heart stops beating, blood stops circulating, oxygen stops flowing to the brain, and the victim stops breathing. If no CPR is provided or no defibrillation occurs within 3 to 5 minutes of collapse, the chances of survival drop.

When a person has a cardiac arrest, survival depends on immediately receiving CPR from someone nearby. Cardiac arrests occur when the heart suddenly stops beating. New Orleans EMS responds to cardiac arrests every day- 615 out-of-hospital cardiac arrest incidents occurred in 2017 in our parish alone.  Unfortunately, only a third of these patients received immediate help in the form of bystander CPR. CPR, especially if performed immediately, can triple a cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival. Three to five minutes is a matter of life and death for sudden cardiac arrest victims. Higher bystander CPR rates have been linked to greater survival rates after a cardiac arrest.

“Every second counts in cardiac arrest. Bystanders are absolutely critical in a cardiac arrest emergency. They start the American Heart Association’s out-of-hospital chain of survival by calling 9-1-1 and then providing early CPR with an emphasis on chest compressions,” said Dr. Georges Antoun, interventional cardiologist with St. Tammany Parish Hospital.  “What if it were your mom or dad, your husband or wife, your sister or brother, or your friend who was having a cardiac arrest? You would want to know what to do. So, if you see a teen or adult suddenly collapse, don’t be afraid, your actions can only help.”

Only about 46 percent of people who experience an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest receive the immediate help that they need before professional help arrives. Many Americans don’t perform CPR because they don’t know what to do or they are afraid of hurting the person. To help increase the likelihood of people performing CPR in an emergency, the Association recommends Hands-Only CPR, which has two easy steps. Step 1: Call 911. Step 2: Push hard and fast in the center of the chest until help arrives.

Research shows that people who watch the on-line Hands-Only CPR video are significantly more likely to respond in an emergency, so we are encouraging everyone to visit for a top-level overview of the technique.

In 2007, the American Heart Association, in coalition with the American Red Cross and the National Safety Council, worked collaboratively to federally designate a National CPR and AED Awareness Week, which happens the first seven days of June each year.

The American Heart Association launched a nationwide Hands-Only CPR campaign to raise awareness about this life-saving skill. Since 2012, nearly 10.1 million people have been trained in Hands-Only CPR via events, training kiosks and video education.

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