Research indicates that about 41 percent of people who have a cardiac arrest outside of hospital receive CPR from bystanders, friends and family.
The Heart Foundation’s Group CEO, Adjunct Professor John Kelly, said the first few minutes of a cardiac arrest were critical for survival.
“Call 000 immediately if you think someone has had a cardiac arrest. Check for a response and if they are breathing. If not, start CPR and use an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) if one is available,” Professor Kelly said.
AEDs are portable devices that can detect life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms that can cause a cardiac arrest. If an AED detects a certain abnormal heart rhythm, it will apply a measured electric shock to try to ‘restart’ the heart to its normal rhythm.
“AEDs can also increase your chance of surviving a cardiac arrest. You don’t have to be trained to use one, the step-by-step recorded instructions will guide you, and even if it turns out the person is not having a cardiac arrest, using the AED will not harm them.
“We know bystanders can be reluctant to step in if they haven’t been trained in CPR, but any attempt at resuscitation is better than no attempt.”
During a cardiac arrest a person’s heart will stop beating, the brain and vital organs will be starved of oxygen and the victim will become unconscious and stop breathing or will not be breathing normally. It is not the same as a heart attack. During a heart attack the heart still sends blood around the body and the person remains conscious and is still breathing.
Each year about 25,000 people have a cardiac arrest out of hospital in Australia and it is estimated that as few as five percent will survive to hospital discharge.
About three quarters of cardiac arrests – around 16,000 cases – are thought to be caused by heart events, such as a heart attack, or by underlying heart conditions including coronary heart disease, abnormal heart rhythms and structural problems with the heart. Other causes include drowning, electrocution or major trauma.
“Coronary heart disease happens when fatty cholesterol deposits build up inside your heart’s arteries and is a common cause of cardiac arrest. About 570,000 Australians currently report living with coronary heart disease, and just over half of these people experienced a heart attack in the past year.
“The Heart Foundation encourages more people to learn what they can do to save a life, but we can all take pre-emptive action to protect our own heart.
“If you are over the age of 45, or over the age of 30 if you are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, talk to your doctor about a Heart Health Check to understand your risk factors for heart disease,” Professor Kelly said.
The Heart Foundation is an official supporter of Restart a Heart Day in Australia.