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How to do CPR

June 1, 2021

About 70% of cardiac arrests happen at home. And If you experience an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, there’s less than a 50% chance someone will know how to help you before an ambulance arrives. That’s why it’s so important to know how to do CPR. Not just for yourself, but for those around you, as well.

This week is National CPR & AED Awareness Week. It helps to shine a spotlight on how lives can be saved if more of us took the time to learn CPR and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). The program was launched in 2009, and since 2012, more than 10 million people have been trained in hands-only CPR. But we need more.

So, let’s find out what it is and where you can learn how to do CPR.

What Does CPR Stand For?

CPR is a medical acronym that stands for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation.

CPR is needed when someone suffers a cardiac arrest where the heart stops pumping blood around the body. A cardiac arrest is a medical emergency requiring prompt treatment in order to prevent brain damage and eventual death.

When a person has a cardiac arrest, CPR could triple their chance of survival.

How To Do CPR

The American Red Cross created this simple, step-by-step guide to help you learn how to do CPR. It’s broken down into two phases: What to do before administering CPR and what to do while you’re doing it.

Before Beginning CPR

  1. Check the scene and the person. Make sure the scene is safe, then tap the person on the shoulder and shout "Are you OK?" to ensure that the person needs help.
  2. Call 911 for assistance. If the person needs help, call (or ask a bystander to call) 911. You should also send someone to get an AED. If an AED is unavailable, or there is no bystander to access it, stay with the victim, call 911 and begin administering CPR.
  3. Open the airway. With the person lying on his or her back, tilt the head back slightly to lift the chin.
  4. Check for breathing. Listen carefully, for no more than 10 seconds, for sounds of breathing. (Occasional gasping sounds do not equate to breathing.) If there is no breathing begin CPR.

Red Cross CPR Steps

1. Push hard, push fast. Place your hands, one on top of the other, in the middle of the chest. Use your body weight to help you administer compressions that are at least 2 inches deep and delivered at a rate of at least 100 compressions per minute.

*At 103 beats per minute, the old disco song “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees is the perfect rhythm to use for your compressions.

2. Deliver rescue breaths. With the person's head tilted back slightly and the chin lifted, pinch the nose shut and place your mouth over the person's mouth to make a complete seal. Blow into the person's mouth to make the chest rise. Deliver two rescue breaths, then continue compressions.

*If the chest does not rise with the initial rescue breath, re-tilt the head before delivering the second breath. If the chest doesn't rise with the second breath, the person may be choking.

After each subsequent set of 30 chest compressions, and before attempting breaths, look for an object and, if seen, remove it.

3. Continue CPR steps. Keep performing cycles of chest compressions and breathing until the person exhibits signs of life, such as breathing, an AED becomes available, or EMS or a trained medical responder arrives on the scene.

The Red Cross recommends ending the cycles if the scene becomes unsafe or you cannot continue performing CPR due to exhaustion.

How Can You Help Promote CPR Awareness Week?

There are many ways to promote National CPR and AED Awareness Week. You can start by downloading free materials provided by the American Heart Association and the Red Cross.

You can find a lot of them here: www.heart.org/cprweek, or consider printing and using these resources and email templates to send messages to your work, school or community. They provide valuable information about the proper way to perform hands-only CPR.  

To learn how your friends and family can help, visit: www.heart.org/HandsOnlyCPR and ask them to watch the Hands-Only CPR instructional video. It just might help save a life!

NOH-DrLanger-SocialPost-2-(Screen for Heart Disease)

Another thing you can do is to find out how healthy your heart is. Our guide “Cardiology Tests That Are Helping Hearts Stay Healthy” will introduce you to three simple tests you can have done. One of them can even predict your risk of heart attack over the next 10 years.

How to Tell if You'll Have a Heart Attack