PhotoHow many times have you thought to yourself, “maybe I should learn CPR?” Maybe you should. This simple procedure saves countless lives each year.

When someone goes into cardiac arrest their heart stops beating, meaning blood stops moving through their body. When that happens, oxygen doesn't make it to the brain and serious brain damage occurs or the patient dies.

It would be convenient to go into cardiac arrest inside the walls of a hospital, but unfortunately that only happens about 20% of the time. The rest of the time it happens at home, or at the office or while walking down the street. According to the American Heart Association, about 288,000 cases of cardiac arrest occur each year outside of a hospital and fewer than 10% of the patients survive.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the formal name for CPR, is a way to manually pump the heart, moving blood through the body, until medical help arrives. The procedure isn't likely to restart the heart but it can restore at least partial blood flow.

Just 38 minutes

Japanese researchers have found that performing CPR on a heart attack victim for 38 minutes or longer can improve a patient’s chance of survival. It also improves the chances that survivors will have normal brain function, researchers said.

Of course, time is of the essence. After allowing for other factors that can affect neurological outcomes, researchers found that the odds of surviving an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest without severe brain damage dropped five percent for every 60 seconds that passed before normal blood circulation was restored.

The problem is, most people haven't been trained in administering CPR. Fortunately, it's not a complicated procedure and is fairly easy to master.

Research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2013 in Dallas found that just one minute of training for bystanders in a crowded shopping mall could save a cardiac arrest victim.

60 seconds of training

The researchers used a one-minute CPR video to improve responsiveness and teach compression only CPR to people with no CPR experience. Compression only CPR – now the preferred method – does not require breathing air into the victim's mouth but simply applying pressure to the chest in a regular rhythm. The brief American Heart Association video below shows how it is done.

To prove their point, researchers divided participants in the study into two groups: 48 adults looked at the video, while 47 sat doing nothing for one minute.

With a mannequin playing the role of a heart attack victim, both groups were asked to do "what they thought best." Researchers measured responsiveness as time to call 9-1-1 and start chest compression and CPR quality reflected by chest compression depth, rate and hands-off interval time.


The people who watched the one-minute video called 9-1-1 more frequently, initiated chest compression sooner, had an increased chest compression rate and a decreased hands-off interval, researchers said.

"Given the short length of training, these findings suggest that ultra-brief video training may have potential as a universal intervention for public venues to help bystander reaction and improve CPR skills," said Ashish Panchal, lead researcher of the study.

It's probably advisable, however, to spend more than 60 seconds learning CPR. There are a variety of courses offered by groups that can probably be found in your local area. To help you find a course near you, the American Heart Association provides this handy course locater.

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