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Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)

CPR increases a person’s chance of survival when they go into sudden cardiac arrest- when the heart malfunctions and stops beating un-expectantly. Heart attacks can lead to cardiac arrest because they weaken the heart muscles. This is why it is important to know the warning signs of a heart attack and get medical attention as soon as possible.

While sudden cardiac arrest most often occurs due to complications from heart attacks, it can also be caused by physical stress as from intense physical activity, inherited disorders, or changes in the heart’s size or structure.

The full CPR process includes a continuous cycle of 30 chest compressions followed by 2 rescue breaths. By manually pumping the blood through the body with chest compressions and administering oxygen with the breaths, you are acting as the heart for the victim.

However, if you are uncomfortable or not trained to administer rescue breaths for the individual, then you can still do continuous cycles of just chest compressions. This is known as hands-only CPR. In an emergency situation, hands-only CPR is more effective than doing nothing at all.

Note: CPR must only be performed if the person is unconscious. This means that he/she is not responsive if you yell and forcefully tap on the shoulder. You should not perform CPR if the person is breathing normally. If he/she is making noisy, infrequent gasps this is called an agonal breath and you should not count this as regular breathing- you can perform CPR.

For more information about CPR and how to become CPR certified, please contact your local organization.

 Automated External Defibrillator (AED)

An AED is a small portable defibrillator that is used to restart a person’s heart when they are suffering a sudden cardiac arrest. It starts by analyzing the person’s heart rhythm and then sends an electric shock to the heart to get the heart to beat normally again. They are easy for a lay person to use because all one has to do is turn it on and follow the instructions prompted by the AED. Although certification is highly recommended, any lay person can operate an AED in an emergency situation.