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Cardiovascular Health

To Restart a Heart, You Just Need a Simple Training Course

Photo: Courtesy of PRESTAN

Anyone is capable of saving a life. Though this feat may seem reserved for trained medical professionals, it’s true — and a simple training course can make it possible.

In particular, you can learn bystander CPR to restart a heart suffering from sudden cardiac arrest in five minutes flat. Doing so can double or triple a person’s chances of surviving sudden cardiac arrest with their neurological processes intact, said Teri Campbell, executive director of the nonprofit Illinois Heart Rescue (ILHR). The organization strives to raise awareness of the importance of CPR and offers training programs to teach non-medical people how to perform the life-saving exercise.

Only 1 out of 10 people survive sudden cardiac arrest — in large part because most victims don’t receive CPR in time, Campbell said. “Many people think if they call 911 that the professionals can save their loved ones,” Campbell explained. “However, for every minute that someone does not receive bystander CPR, their chance of death increases by 10 percent.” 

Brady McLaughlin, CEO and founder of TrioSafety CPR+AED Solutions, said that 3 percent of the population in the United States are certified in CPR annually. “The  No. 1 place that pre-hospital sudden cardiac arrest occurs is in the home. Unfortunately, this is also the place where the lowest number of people are trained in CPR,” McLaughlin explained. “If we could simply increase the emphasis on lay-provider CPR training — especially for individuals not regulatorily required to have a CPR certification — I know we would experience an increase in survival rates.”

You may be intimidated to learn CPR, but Campbell emphasized that it’s hard to mess up. 

“The intent of bystander CPR is to is to build confidence in non-medical people and inspire them to save a life,” Campbell said. “The steps are intended to be very simple and easy to remember, even in times of stress.”

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To learn CPR, check out programs from American Red Cross, the American Safety Health Institute, and the American Heart Association, which offer fee-based certification that lasts two to three hours. If you don’t need certification, learning bystander CPR is even simpler, Campbell added. “Park districts, faith-based groups, fire departments, and nonprofits such as ILHR teach bystander CPR for free, and will come to your community to do so.” Because most states require that bystander CPR education be offered in high school, young people may be able to learn this way.

As a preview, Campbell outlined the steps for learning CPR:

  1. Recognize a problem
  2. Call for help
  3. Push hard and fast in the center of the chest
  4. If an automatic external defibrillator (AED) is available, turn it on and follow the verbal prompts
  5. Recruit help

And once you learn the ropes, practicing can help you build the confidence needed to spring into action when your knowledge is needed. “We recommend practicing every six months to a year with a manikin that gives you feedback that you are performing correctly, such as the PRESTAN manikins, or you can keep it simple and practice on a pillow,” she suggested.

McLaughlin’s company also uses PRESTAN products, which offer “built-in, real-time CPR feedback devices on each manikin, [building] confidence and comfort in our students by helping provide reassurance that their compressions are being delivered effectively,” he said.

The effort to learn this life-saving practice is worth it, especially when you consider its simplicity and impact. “The message needs to be spread that bystander CPR can be taught in as little as five minutes, anyone can do it, you cannot seriously hurt someone by doing it,” Campbell said, “and not performing bystander CPR almost always leads to death of the victim.”

This article has been paid for by PRESTAN.

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