Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a lifesaving technique used when someone’s breathing or heartbeat has stopped, as in cases of sudden cardiac arrest.

When the heart stops, a lack of blood flow to the brain can cause brain damage within minutes, and death within eight to 10 minutes. While CPR alone is unlikely to restart the heart, it can keep oxygenated blood flowing to the brain and other vital organs until medical treatment can be administered to restore a normal heart rhythm. Effective use of CPR after sudden cardiac arrest can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival.

CPR can be administered by medical personnel or laypeople. The American Heart Association suggests that if you do not have CPR training or you have been trained but are not confident in your ability to administer CPR, you provide hands-only CPR—chest compressions of approximately 100 per minute until paramedics arrive. (According to the American Heart Association, the beat of “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees provides an ideal rhythm in terms of beats per minute to use for hands-only CPR.) If you have been trained in CPR, you should begin with 30 chest compressions before giving rescue breaths according to your training.

To learn CPR, take an accredited first-aid training course, including CPR and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). There is a trend toward requiring CPR training as a condition of high school graduation. Connecticut passed a law in June 2015 requiring public school districts to provide one-time CPR instruction at either the middle school or secondary school level.

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