Heart Month focuses on CPR and defibrillation

Teach steps to improve heart attack survival rate

February is American Heart Month. Though Congress issued the proclamation in 1963, each year represents a new opportunity for education about this deadly disease and the strides the Dallas-based American Heart Association and other health organizations are making to reduce the risks.

In 2003 the emphasis for education is CPR and automatic external defibrillator (AED) programs. Its purpose is to increase public awareness for a sequence of actions that must be initiated in order to save lives during cardiac emergencies.

According to the American Heart Association, there are four actions that start when a person recognizes the emergency. To increase the survival rate for people who suffer cardiac arrest from 5%-20%, the victim must have:

  • Early Access.

Early access to medical care means that someone must recognize the emergency and telephone the Emergency Medical System. In most communities, access is gained by dialing 911.

  • Early Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).

CPR must be done promptly and correctly. Mouth to mouth breathing and chest compressions circulate blood and oxygen to vital organs, and this buys time until defibrillation is given, according to the American Heart Association.

  • Early Defibrillation.

Using a medical device called a defibrillator within minutes of cardiac arrest is vital to survival. This device delivers an electric shock to the heart to stop the abnormal rhythm so that a normal rhythm can resume. The American Heart Association is working to increase public access to automated external defibrillators through community AED programs.

  • Early Advanced Life Support.

Paramedics or health care providers who respond to cardiac arrest cases should have up-to-date training in advanced life support.

The American Heart Association recommends that non-medical personnel be trained to use an AED. These lay rescuers could include police, firefighters, flight attendants, security guards and other categories identified by the community.

While an AED only is useful when an abnormal heart rhythm is present the machine itself detects the rhythm and will not deliver the shock unless detection is made. According to the American Heart Association, studies have shown that AEDs interpret the victim’s heart rhythm more accurately and quickly than trained emergency professionals.