The importance of CPR can scarcely be overstated. However, cardiopulmonary resuscitation is only effective when significant portions of the population are able to administer it at a moment’s notice. We can’t simply rely on doctors, paramedics, and other emergency responders to administer immediate CPR. In most cases, it will be up to people like you to take action in an emergency while waiting for those medical professionals to arrive.
There are several good reasons why you should learn CPR, the most important of which is that someday it might be you who saves a life.
1. CPR Can Save a Cardiac Arrest Victim’s Life
CPR is designed to keep oxygenated blood flowing to the heart and brain when sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) occurs. If the heart can’t pump blood, tissue and organ death can occur within minutes if there is no external assistance.
You may think it’s unlikely that you’ll ever be required to act in such an emergency. But cardiac arrest can occur at any time; in fact, it’s the #1 killer worldwide. Most SCA incidences (69.5%) occur in the home, and another 18.8% occur in public.
As many as 475,000 Americans die from this condition in a single year, and the American Heart Association notes that SCA claims more lives worldwide than cancers, auto accidents, influenza, HIV, firearms, and house fires combined.
2. Cardiac Arrest Can Affect Anyone
You may assume that you don’t know anyone who’s at high risk for SCA. While it’s true that certain risk factors do exist (such as age, gender, and heart disease), the overall issue is a lot more complicated.
For instance, while we tend to think of older adults as being the most vulnerable, SCA can occur at any age. More than 7,000 children and infants every year fall victim to this condition, and their odds of survival depend on an immediate assistance response. Additionally, cardiac arrest often impacts people with no previously diagnosed heart conditions. That’s why it’s so important to be prepared to take immediate action.
3. Most Cardiac Arrest Victims Don’t Survive
The mortality rate among out-of-hospital cardiac arrest victims is about 90%. Considering that the vast majority of these events—about 350,000 per year—occur outside the hospital, this is devastating news.
In-hospital cardiac arrests have a much better prognosis because patients receive treatment swiftly before organ damage occurs. If the majority of Americans were trained in CPR procedures and capable of responding to out-of-hospital emergencies, many more sufferers would survive long enough to receive the professional care they need. In fact…
4. CPR Can Quadruple a Person’s Odds of Surviving SCA
CPR saves lives! It keeps blood flowing to vital organs while you await the arrival of emergency services. One meta-analysis of 79 studies found that bystander CPR increases a victim’s odds of survival by four times. The standard survival rate for out-of-hospital SCA is only about 10%, but the survival rate among sufferers who received bystander CPR is nearly 45%.
So the problem isn’t that cardiac arrest victims can’t be saved. The issue is that less than 5% of the American public is trained in CPR. In most cases, sufferers are left waiting for emergency services, deprived of much-needed oxygen. And the longer those services take to arrive, the worse the prognosis. That’s why we constantly stress the importance of CPR.
5. Every Minute Matters in a Cardiac Emergency
When you’re an untrained or minimally trained bystander, it’s easy to assume that you’re better off stepping aside and letting the professionals work their magic. However, this is a critical mistake. For every minute a cardiac arrest victim goes without CPR, their chance of death increases by 10%.
Now consider that emergency professionals take an average of 4 to 10 minutes to respond to an emergency. Assuming you’re lucky enough to get professional support in just four minutes, the victim’s prognosis has still dropped by 40%. And if it takes 10 minutes for help to arrive, it may be too late. CPR provides oxygen and buys you much-needed time during those critical minutes, maximizing the victim’s chances of survival.
6. CPR Makes AEDs More Effective
If you’re lucky, you’ll have access to an automated external defibrillator (AED) during a cardiac emergency. These lifesaving defibrillation devices are often stored in public places like hotels, gyms, churches, and offices. AEDs are often successful in reviving cardiac arrest sufferers. But even if you have one on hand, it’s still important to understand CPR best practices.
CPR improves the effectiveness of defibrillation, and the combination of these two interventions can improve survival rates by an additional 9%. While the AED works to restore a normal heart rhythm, the CPR works as a stopgap to keep the blood flowing and the organs nourished. You don’t want to lose precious minutes of blood flow while retrieving the AED, nor do you want to stop that momentum while waiting for emergency services to arrive or in case defibrillation doesn’t revive the patient.
7. Learn CPR Because It May Save Someone You Love
The importance of learning CPR isn’t about memorizing beats per minute or discerning what a 2-inch chest compression feels like. It’s about investing in a simple but critical skill that may someday benefit someone you love. In the event that a loved one falls victim to a cardiac event, you don’t want to be a helpless bystander. You have the power to make a difference.
To get started, check out our complete guide for how to perform CPR. We also recommend that you buy an AED if you or a loved one has an elevated risk of cardiac arrest or if you oversee a business or public setting.
Don’t underestimate the importance of CPR. Learning it is easy and takes little time, but it can make all the difference in the world.