It's not overly dramatic to say that every adult should know how to do CPR. According to the American Heart Association, nearly 383,000 cases of sudden cardiac arrest occur annually, often to people who are otherwise healthy with no known risk factors. It's crucial to keep in mind that if you need to perform CPR it's likely to be on somebody you love—a spouse, parent, child or friend—because 4 out of 5 cases of sudden cardiac arrest occur at home.
The AHA recommends that we all take a CPR course every two years to keep our skills current, but if you're not willing or able to do that (and I have to admit that I probably won't . .) at the very least you should watch these online CPR tutorial videos. Here's one from the AHA, and here's a funny British one starring actor and former soccer star Vinnie Jones. The essential things to know if a teen or adult is unresponsive with no heart beat:
- Call 911 immediately
- Using both hands, one on top of the other, fingers interlaced, start doing chest compression in the middle of the chest. Make the compressions "hard and fast" at a pace of about 100 compressions per minute (appropriately, this is about the beat of the 1970s disco classic "Staying Alive")
- Since 2008 the AHA has recommended "Hands Only" CPR, meaning you shouldn't administer mouth to mounth breaths, just get right to doing chest compressions. There are a few exceptions to this: If the victim is a child or has suffered cardiac arrest due to drowning or another form of suffocation, mouth-to-mouth breaths might be necessary. You can find more information on when regular CPR is warranted here.
Visit the AHA website to find a CPR course near you or take an online CPR intro course.
More on CPR and Sudden Cardiac Arrest: