CPR Can Save Someone’s Life

CPR—short for cardiopulmonary resuscitation—is an emergency procedure that can save a person’s life. It’s used when a person’s heart stops beating, also known as cardiac arrest. And when that happens, it can’t pump blood to the rest of the body. According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), death can happen in minutes without treatment. 

The centerpiece of treatment for cardiac arrest is CPR, a technique that uses chest compressions to simulate how the heart pumps. It can double or even triple a person’s chances of survival.  

Take a look at the following video of Weill Cornell Medicine’s Dr. Felipe Teran, an Assistant Attending Physician and Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, who offers a quick lesson in the life-saving procedure: 

Here are the takeaway points from the video: 

When a person is in cardiac arrest: 

  • First, call 911. 
  • Place your hands on the person’s chest. 
  • Push hard and fast in the center of the chest, about twice per second or 120 compressions per minute. 
  • Keep compressing until help arrives. 
  • The song “Staying Alive” can help you keep pace. 

Cardiac arrest vs. heart attack 

You can tell that a person is in cardiac arrest if they aren’t breathing or is only gasping, the CDC says, or if they’re totally unresponsive, even if you shake them or shout at them. 

CPR is the appropriate emergency intervention for cardiac arrest. It is not appropriate when someone is experiencing a heart attack. 

Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart malfunctions and suddenly stops beating. The American Heart Association calls cardiac arrest an “electrical” problem. 

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked—a “circulation” problem. A person having a heart attack is still talking and breathing, even if they’re in pain. They don’t need CPR, but they do need to go to the hospital right away, not least because a heart attack increases the risk for going into cardiac arrest. 

In either case—cardiac arrest or heart attack—call 911.  

You don’t need to be an emergency medical technician (EMT) to perform CPR, but you’ll benefit from a one-time class that will train you in the basics. To locate a class near you, or to receive training and certification in CPR online, please visit here.