When someone is in cardiac arrest, time is precious. Every year more than 200,000 people in the U.S. die of cardiac arrest. The good news is that as more folks become trained in CPR and the use of automated external defibrillator (AED) devices, we have the means to decrease the number of deaths attributed to cardiac arrest.

Cardiac arrest occurs when the heartbeat becomes erratic, too slow or too fast and the heart no longer pumps blood efficiently through the body. This deprives the body of oxygen. The lack of oxygen in the body results in loss of consciousness within seconds. Without immediate medical attention a cardiac arrest leads to death within minutes.

Cardiac arrest is not a heart attack. A heart attack is muscular in nature whereas a cardiac arrest is an electrical malfunction of the heart. Warning signs of a heart attack may progress over minutes or hours. The warning signs of a cardiac arrest are apparent within seconds as the patient will lose consciousness immediately and stops breathing.

Cardiac arrest may result from a heart attack, stroke, drowning, electrocution, suffocation, or drug overdose. In the event of a cardiac arrest the survival of the victim depends on whoever is nearby. “Recognizing the signs of a cardiac arrest and immediate action can mean the difference between a positive or negative outcome,” states Battalion Chief Lovato, Medical Officer for CKFR. “By calling 911 immediately and administering CPR to keep blood flowing through the body you may be able to tip the scale in favor of survival for a cardiac arrest victim,” says BC Lovato.

Victims of cardiac arrest have the greatest chance of survival if CPR is begun immediately and defibrillation is administered within four to six minutes. Defibrillation is the delivery of a large electrical shock using a device called an automated external defibrillator (AED). The shock to the heart can momentarily jar the heart, thus giving it a chance to begin beating efficiently.

CKFR firefighters urge you to become familiar with the symptoms of cardiac arrest. Call 911 right away. Learn and administer CPR. You could save a life!