If you have two hands and know the tune to the classic Bee Gees’ disco song “Stayin’ Alive,” you could save the life of a person in the throes of a heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest. It’s possible you may come to the rescue of a stranger in a public place, but the truth is, the life you’re more likely to save is that of someone you love. Of the approximately 424,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests that occur annually, nearly 90 percent happen at home.
And now it’s even easier — but still just as effective — as ever. Hands-Only CPR is recommended by the American Heart Association for use in treating adults and can double or even triple the chance of survival. The key is to start right away: The odds of surviving decrease by 10 percent for every minute that passes.
Learn the lifesaving Texas two-step.
If a teen or adult suddenly collapses and is not breathing, you could save them by knowing this heart-smart version of the Texas two-step:
- Call 911.
- Push hard and fast in the center of the chest to the beat of “Stayin’ Alive” — the perfect rhythm for Hands-Only CPR.
Continue compressions until help arrives. To avoid tiring quickly, lock your elbows and keep your arms straight and your shoulders down in a relaxed position (not up by your ears). Use your body weight, not your arms, to push. If another person is there, you can take turns if you need a rest.
System check: Is it a plumbing or electrical problem?
If you’ve used “heart attack” and “cardiac arrest” interchangeably, you’re not alone. Most people don’t know there’s a difference. A heart attack can lead to cardiac arrest, but they can also happen independently.
Think of a heart attack as a plumbing problem, during which the heart is still beating but blood flow is slowed or stopped due to a clogged pipe. A person suffering a heart attack may have been having symptoms for minutes, days, even weeks before the event. They may or may not lose consciousness.
Sadly, the average person having symptoms waits three hours before seeking help, which is why many die before reaching the hospital. Receiving emergency treatment as quickly as possible can significantly increase survival odds and decrease the amount of heart damage. If in doubt, call 911 or go immediately to your local ER.
Emergency intervention can also prevent a person having a heart attack from going into sudden cardiac arrest, which is an electrical problem. It’s like a short circuit that causes the heart to beat erratically and become unable to pump oxygenated blood through the body. The person will most likely collapse suddenly and stop breathing.
In both cardiac situations, performing CPR forces blood to continue pumping to vital organs. CPR also prevents blood from pooling in the heart, which can cause it to enlarge and harden. With a heart attack, CPR may be all that’s needed, but in the case of sudden cardiac arrest, adding a third step can help even more:
- Call 911.
- Perform Hands-Only CPR.
- Immediately apply a portable AED (automated external defibrillator) if available.
Don’t be afraid to attach an AED even if you’re not sure whether the person is having a heart attack or is in cardiac arrest. As soon as it’s turned on, the device will give you clear instructions on how to begin and where to place the electrode pads. From there, the machine will take over, sending a shock to the person’s heart ONLY IF a shock is needed.
Once you’ve attached an AED to someone, do not remove it. The device will continuously monitor the heart to detect whether it’s in a “shockable rhythm” or if it requires more than one shock. If no shock is administered, leave the AED on and continue with Hands-Only CPR.
Performing CPR before and during the use of an AED will prevent blood from pooling in the heart, making it more receptive to defibrillation to restart its natural rhythm.
If you or a loved one experience any of the symptoms of a heart attack, don’t wait — get help right away. You’ll be glad to know Medical City Healthcare has 17 emergency locations and nine Accredited Chest Pain Centers across Dallas-Fort Worth located conveniently across Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton counties.