- Understand the importance of knowledge and timeliness when reacting to emergency situations.
- Be aware of the statistics on the occurrence of cardiac arrest, survival rate, and the number of people not qualified to assist.
- Recognize how to educate yourself and your community to best save lives.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certifications have become no more than a mere requirement for health professionals. Many professionals just go through the motions because it is required for their occupations. Although the procedures are taught many times to health and fitness professionals, the importance and seriousness of the task can get overlooked. There have been many stories about others needing to administer CPR, however it has still been something that just does not happen much, until it does. Would you be ready to react and perform appropriately within minutes or even seconds if the moment came? Your actions and knowledge of CPR can be the difference in a person living or dying.
CPR is used when a person stops breathing or has no heartbeat. This resuscitation is administered in many cases; however, sudden cardiac arrest is the number one reason why knowing this technique is important. Currently, the leading cause of death in the world is out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.3 It should not be confused with a heart attack, a blockage in the heart. Sudden cardiac arrest can occur for numerous reasons, but ultimately, it occurs when the heart stops due to sudden electrical issues. At this point, the brain, heart, and the rest of the body are no longer receiving blood circulation. The person is clinically dead and will remain this way until assistance is given in the form of CPR or an automated external defibrillator (AED) is used.2
In the United States alone, 326,200 people experience sudden cardiac arrest each year, and at most, 10% of these people will survive the incident. CPR will only be effective if done immediately after the collapse, within 3 to 5 minutes. In addition, the use of an AED within a generous 10 minute time frame will increase the chance of survival of the patient. Every minute that goes by after the collapse without outside assistance decreases the patient's chance of survival by about 10%. However, if both of these methods are administered in a timely manner the patient's survival rate will increase by about 40%.3 Unfortunately, for many patients help does not come soon enough or at all.
The number of people certified in CPR and AED use in the United States is extremely low, therefore the likelihood of the patient receiving immediate help is low. In the United States 70% of the population is not certified to administer CPR.2 This is an astoundingly high percentage that could be improved by bystanders choosing to get educated on CPR procedures. Health and fitness professionals need to take this knowledge seriously, along with all other individuals; there is never a specific time and place that said situation will occur. The most common place sudden cardiac arrest takes place is at home.4 Simply teaching people in the community about CPR techniques and the seriousness of these situations will dramatically decrease the death toll.
Sadly, many people are not concerned about educating themselves on CPR because they are unaware of the extreme risk of death. This was demonstrated in a survey given to individuals who were currently CPR certified, individuals who had previously been certified, and individuals who had never been certified. The survey asked each individual what they thought the survival rate was when CPR is given to a person suffering from sudden cardiac arrest. Ultimately, the participants who had never been certified in CPR averaged a guess around 51% of people who survive these incidents. Participants who had been CPR certified in the past but who were no longer certified averaged a guess of 44%, and the participants who were currently certified averaged a guess of 27%.1 People greatly underestimated the consequence of sudden cardiac arrest and the influence CPR can have. Even the people who had their certification at the time overestimated the actual survival rate, which is about 10%.1 Hopefully, once people are aware of these numbers they will be more apt to take the time to learn and perhaps help save a life.
Currently, community and school officials are becoming aware the importance of informing and educating the population. In hopes of increasing the number of Americans who are trained in CPR, schools have decided to teach the students CPR as part of the required curriculum. These programs are designed so the students will have this knowledge and carry it into adulthood, ultimately increasing the percent of adults certified in the United States.2 The more people who understand the importance of CPR and how to administer it, the more confidence they will have to act in these situations.
Every second counts in emergency situations. Research shows that the fraction of chest compressions done after the occurrence of sudden cardiac arrest is extremely important.3 Thus, even if an individual witnessing an event is unaware of the compression and breath sequences they are encouraged to focus on hard and fast chest compressions. Compressions are found to be better than no assistance at all, and increase the survival rate of the patient.3 Again, the new curriculum that is being adopted in schools also focuses on calling for help and pressing hard and fast on the chest.2 Simply reacting with chest compressions can have a huge impact and be extremely important to save more lives.
Overall, the number of sudden cardiac deaths in America is high, as well as the percentage of Americans not CPR certified. This is a deadly combination with a rather simple fix. As a health and fitness professional you are put in positions where a certification is necessary and required, due to the nature of your job. You must be aware and willing to react to emergency situations whenever necessary. Also, as a professional, you can be an avid promoter of the importance and necessity of CPR training. Informing co-workers and clients, and being an advocate, will help spread the significance. Once an individual is mindful of the impact they can have on the lives of those around them by educating themselves in CPR, there can be hope in seeing the survival rates increase from incidents such as sudden cardiac arrest. Emergency situations are unpredictable and cardiac arrest can happen in the most unsuspecting populations, thus CPR training should be frequently discussed and advocated in the health and fitness community.
Amber Moloney, B.S., CPT, is a fitness intern at Hilton Head Health: Weight Loss Retreat and Wellness Resort. She has studied and worked as a health promotion and fitness professional specializing in health and geriatrics for four years. Amber is survivor of sudden cardiac arrest due to CPR and AED use, and now lives with an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD).
1. Bradly D, Abrams J, Tangel L. Overestimation of the effectiveness of cardiopulmonary resuscitation as a function of CPR certification level. Percept Mot Skills. 2000; 90(1): 349-50.
2. Cave DM, Aufderheide TP, Beeson J, et al. Importance and implementation of training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and automated external defibrillation in schools. Circulation. 2011;123:691-706.
3. Christenson J, Andrusiek D, Everson-Stewart S, et al. Chest compression fraction determines survival in patients with out-of-hospital ventricular fibrillation. Circulation. 2009; 120:1241-47.
4. Vreede-Swagemakers J, Gorgels A, Dubois-Arbouw WI, et al. Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in the 1990s: a population-based study in the maastricht area on incidence, characteristics and survival. J Am Coll Cardiol. 1997; 30(6):1500-5.