Promoting Awareness of Cardiac Arrest
U.N. Sustainable Development Goal
My project corresponds with SDG 3, which is good health and well being. Cardiac arrest affects people of all ages world wide, yet surprisingly few people are trained in CPR, the only treatment that non-medical professionals can provide to someone in cardiac arrest. It is time for us to encourage CPR training so we can save more lives.
I call on you to read my page and familiarize yourself with cardiac arrest and CPR, then go out into your community, whether that be your school, workplace, or neighborhood, and push for inclusion of CPR training to make our society a safer place.
The heart has four chambers- two atria and two ventricles. Blood enters the heart through either the left or right atrium, and is pushed out by that ventricle when the heart contracts (How the Heart Works). The corresponding pressure wave is why you can feel your pulse. In adults, 60-100 beats per minute is considered a normal resting heart rate. A healthy heart contracts with enough strength for the left ventricle to send blood out to the body through the aorta. In one heartbeat, an electrical impulse, which originates in the senatorial (SA) node, first causes the atria to contract, then travels through the atrioventricular (AV) node and triggers the contraction of the ventricles (Heart & Blood Vessels). The signature ‘lub-dub’ sound that is typically associated with a heartbeat is the atria contracting, and then, a split second later, the ventricles doing the same. thing.
What is Cardiac Arrest?
For our purposes, we can define cardiac arrest as the absence of a heart rhythm that will maintain circulation. There are four rhythms that fall under the umbrella of cardiac arrest (Chapter 6).
- Asystole- The heart ceases to have any electrical activity or motion (Chapter 6).
- Pulseless Electrical Activity (PEA)- The electrical impulses that usually produce a heartbeat are present, but the heart fails to contract (Chapter 6).
- Ventricular Fibrillation- The ventricles of the heart move in an uncoordinated pattern, but no true contractions occur (Chapter 6).
- Ventricular Tachycardia- The ventricles contact correctly, but they do so much more quickly than they should, so there is no time for blood to move into the ventricle before it contracts again, and not enough blood gets out to the body (Chapter 6).
Why Does Cardiac Arrest Matter?
Every year, cardiac arrest kills roughly 8.5 million people worldwide, and the global survival rate is a dismal 1% (Mehra). The recommended course of action when someone is in cardiac arrest is to perform CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (Chapter 6). This is a skill that can be easily learned by anyone in a short class.
Chain of Survival
There are five steps in the so called “chain of survival,” which is an overview of the measures that should be taken to give cardiac arrest patients the best chance of survival.
The most important thing to do if you witness a cardiac arrest (or any medical emergency) is to CALL 911* (Newman). This will give you a direct link to someone with medical training who can instruct you, and it will get emergency medical services (EMS) to the location as soon as possible (Newman). If you think that you have seen someone go into cardiac arrest but you aren’t sure, CALL 911 ANYWAY*. It is better to have professionals on scene to assess the situation even if they end up being unnecessary than to realize that someone needs care and it isn’t there.
*I live in the United States, and 911 is our emergency services number. If you live somewhere outside the United States, the same advice applies to using the emergency response number for your country.
Recognizing Cardiac Arrest
Many people are under the misconception that cardiac arrest and a heart attack are the same thing, which they are not. Harvard Health differentiates between the two by explaining that “while a heart attack is a plumbing problem, a cardiac arrest is an electrical problem,” (Corliss). Essentially, a heart attack is the result of a blockage in the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart, which causes damage to a certain area (Corliss). Cardiac arrest, on the other hand, is caused by problems in the hearts electrical system, which result in an ineffective heartbeat or a complete absence of one (Corliss).
When someone is experiencing a heart attack, symptoms such as chest pain are often present for several hours before progression (Heart Attack). A heart attack patient usually stays conscious, and is breathing with a pulse (Heart Attack). With cardiac arrest, however, the person will lose consciousness within a few seconds (Heart Attack). Upon inspection, they will have no pulse and will not be breathing (Heart Attack). If this is the case, then CPR should be started immediately, emergency services should be called, and someone should be directed to retrieve an AED (Heart Attack).
What You Can Do
Find out if your school, community center, or local Red Cross offers a CPR certification class. Many areas do it either for free or relatively cheap. If you don’t have access to an in person class, look at some of the following videos on learning CPR. If your school does not already offer a CPR training class, talk to an administrator about implementing one. Organizations like the American Heart Association often offer easy kits to schools that allow them to train their own instructors and teach CPR to students at a relatively low cost. The more people that know CPR, the greater the chance that bystanders at a cardiac arrest will know how to act.
Steps to Take
- Find out if your school, workplace, or community organization offers a CPR training class. Try checking American Red Cross or American Heart Association if you are in the U.S. If you live somewhere else, try First Aid Europe, Respond Right Asia, or International CPR Institute.
- If they do, then take the class, and encourage anyone you know to do the same.
- If they don’t, talk to an administrator and encourage them to look into purchasing kits such as this one that allow for hands-on CPR instruction at a low cost.
- Get involved with organizations who help to promote cardiac arrest awareness and bring CPR training to communities. Many organizations allow you to become a CPR/AED instructor at 18, and some accept people as low as age 16.
“Chapter 6- Management of Cardiac Arrest.” pp. 47–56, www.alsg.org/fileadmin/_temp_/Specific/Ch06_CA.pdf.
Corliss, Julie. “Heart Attack versus Cardiac Arrest.” Harvard Health, Harvard Health Publishing, 18 Apr. 2018, www.health.harvard.edu/the-difference-between-a-heart-attack-and-cardiac-arrest-2018042613711.
“Heart & Blood Vessels: How the Heart Beats.” Cleveland Clinic, 16 Nov. 2018, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/17064-heart-beat.
“Heart Attack or Sudden Cardiac Arrest: How Are They Different?” American Heart Association, www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack/about-heart-attacks/heart-attack-or-sudden-cardiac-arrest-how-are-they-different.
“How the Heart Works.” MyHealth.Alberta.ca Government of Alberta Personal Health Portal, Government of Alberta, 22 July 2018, myhealth.alberta.ca/health/Pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=tx4097abc.
Mehra, Rahul. “Global Public Health Problem of Sudden Cardiac Death.” Journal of Electrocardiology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2007, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17993308.
Newman, Mary M. “The Chain of Survival.” The Chain of Survival | Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, www.sca-aware.org/schools/chain-of-survival.