When someone experiences cardiac arrest, every second matters. A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating, often after an irregular heartbeat, called arrhythmia. Without a heartbeat, blood can't circulate to your brain and other organs, leading to death within minutes.
Cardiac arrest is different from a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when the heart does not get enough blood because of a blockage, which cuts off oxygen to the heart. But the heart tries to continue beating during a heart attack.
With cardiac arrest, the heart suddenly stops beating altogether, often because of an electrical glitch in the person's circulatory system.
Cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, and usually occurs unexpectedly. Without intervention within the first few minutes, cardiac arrest is often fatal. If you witness someone who is experiencing cardiac arrest, call 911 immediately. Aside from calling 911, there are many ways you can potentially save a life, including, recognizing the signs and symptoms, performing chest compressions, and knowing where to find an automated external defibrillator (AED). All these actions can help increase the chances of the individual's survival.
The most common signs of a cardiac arrest are:
A cardiac arrest is sudden, but sometimes individuals may show symptoms before their heart stops:
Most cardiac arrests outside the hospital happen at home, but three out of 10 happen in public. In the event you may witness a cardiac arrest, minutes matter, so do not hesitate to call 911 and if you are able to, offer help. Only a small percentage of people who experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital survive, so it is important that bystanders act quickly.
If you see someone who may be experiencing cardiac arrest, take these steps:
1. Check for signs of life
2. Call 911
3. Begin hands-only CPR
4. Find an AED if possible
5. If an AED is available, ask someone to turn it on and follow the prompts.
6. Keep performing hands-only CPR until help arrives
7. Stay with the individual
In the event of a cardiac arrest, remember, minutes matter. By doing something instead of nothing can help increase the individual's chances of survival. Whether it's by calling 911, finding and AED, or performing hands-only CPR, you have the power to potentially save a life.