When Minutes Count, Knowing CPR Can Potentially Save a Life

Noone thinks it’s going to happen to them, but people die from heart related problems every day and if there’s no one there to help, there’s a good chance you could die. This is why it’s important that we learn Cardiopulmonary Resucitation (CPR). Many of us remember taking a class in high school, but if it’s been a long time, it wouldn’t hurt to take a refresher course.

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Chest Compressions Save Lives

The fact is that 90% of people who suffer out of hospital cardiac arrests die on the spot. When this happens, first call 911. After you’ve called for help, provide immediate assistance because when the heart stops, blood stops flowing. Doing chest compressions to circulate blood immediately can prevent the person from dying and buy them time until the paramedics arrive and restart the heart.

Since we don’t often collapse in front of a hospital, a physician, or a paramedic, that means that regular people need to step up and provide help.“Every minute matters and the chance of a person surviving cardiac arrest goes down with every minute that goes by without starting chest compressions,” explains Clifton Callaway, Emergency Physician from Pittsburg and a national volunteer on the American Heart Association Emergency Cardiovascular Care Committee.

When someone collapses you spend a couple of minutes just figuring out what’s happening. Is it a seizure? Are they passed out? Are they actually in cardiac arrest? It’s all part of the emergency and it’s o.k. to freak out, except time is ticking. “After 5 or 6 minutes the chance of someone doing well if we haven’t started some kind of chest compressions diminishes a lot,” explains Dr. Callaway. The chances are better if chest compressions start within the first 1 to 2 minutes after they collapse.


Mouth to mouth ventilation, which is also part of CPR, is something that’s been around for over a decade, but it can be hard to do and some people are not comfortable doing it, he says. “We recognize that in adults when they collapse it’s usually heart disease, and when you do that your lungs have oxygen in them, except you’re not using it because your heart is not beating, so you have time to do chest compressions even if you don’t do breaths,” says Dr. Callaway.

With chest compressions, you help circulate blood and you keep the person alive because they still have some oxygen in their lungs for a few minutes. Eventually they will need oxygen, but you can support them until the paramedics show up. “The situation is a bit different in children because if they have a problem with cardiac arrest it will be because they have difficulty breathing and problems with their lungs, so we still encourage to give mouth to mouth to children,” he says.

ALSO: Heart Attack Symptoms in Women



CPR Studies From Sweden

Two recent studies from Sweden published in the New England Journal of Medicine are the best example of the importance of CPR. The first study talks about Sweden’s experience with cardiac arrest and credits high survival rate to bystanders who performed CPR on the spot. “They found that when people in Sweden were having cardiac arrest, as much as 60-70% of the time, a bystander is doing chest compressions before medical personnel get there and that’s tremendous—that’s twice the rate in the U.S.,” explains Dr. Callaway. The second study is about a program that uses text messages sent out to people in the vicinity that when someone called their version of 911 a text message would go out to volunteers and if they were nearby they would go out and provide CPR as quickly as possible.


In the U.S. there are a couple of companies that have created an app that you could use on your phone to be a volunteer. They require a county or 911 center to also install the software when they get a call, but it’s not as widespread as it is over in Sweden. The American Heart Association also has an Pocket First Aid & CPR Smartphone App that gives instructions on how to perform CPR in case of an emergency.

Learn CPR With the American Heart Association

“One of the biggest efforts from the American Heart Association for many years has been in training people in CPR, what to do in an emergency, we administer CPR classes, we do public awareness efforts and there are a number of videos on YouTube and a number of training materials in various languages that you can download from their website,” he says. You can go to a class to learn CPR, you can also watch a video and do some home training, learn CPR, learn what to do without leaving home.

They also encourage people to feel empowered to help in an emergency, one of the key things is to be responsible for our neighbors and family because if someone has a cardiac arrest you can be ready to respond, he adds.“We spend a lot of time on advocacy and helping people understand, reassuring folks that they’re not going to hurt somebody by doing chest compressions. This is a situation where minutes matter and we want to do everything we can to relieve that anxiety and make sure people feel that they can help,” he says.

It’s a simple thing to learn, in one class you can learn the basic skills to buy someone a couple of minutes so they don’t die before the paramedics arrive. Watch now: