Most Americans put in at least some effort in our day to day lives to prevent untimely death. We avoid carcinogens, we buckle our seatbelts, we shield ourselves from contagions, and every home has smoke detectors to warn us in case of a fire. Yet all of these well known threats combined don’t kill as many Americans each year as cardiac arrest. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), 475,000 Americans die from a cardiac arrest every year.

Cardiac arrest is described by the AHA simply as an “abrupt loss of heart function” and can occur in people “who may or may not have been diagnosed with heart disease.” It is often conflated with heart attacks, but the two are distinctly different. Heart attacks are a circulatory issue caused by arterial blockage, while cardiac arrest is an electrical malfunction in the heart muscle. While certain symptoms may imply a pending episode, cardiac arrest can also occur suddenly and without warning. And each year in the US, over 350,000 cardiac arrests occur outside of a hospital. Without quick and proper treatment, 90% of these are fatal.

Fortunately, despite all these daunting numbers, there is tremendous hope in just six little letters: CPR and AED. The American Heart Association says:

CPR – or Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation – is an emergency lifesaving procedure performed when the heart stops beating. CPR, especially if administered immediately after cardiac arrest, can double or triple a person’s chance of survival.”

You can read more in our previous blog about CPR statistics here, in which we discuss the importance of CPR-certification and the necessity for more Americans to have quality, up-to-date training. But it is important to understand that treatment within ten minutes of the onset of cardiac arrest is imperative to survival. Without immediate action, survival rates are close to zero.

Also integral to the life-saving process is one of the greatest pieces of technology in cardiac medicine, the AED. The Automated External Defibrillator was first demonstrated in 1899 in Switzerland as a means to induce a heartbeat with electric shocks. It wasn’t until 1947 when a defibrillator was first used successfully on a human, but today defibrillators are ubiquitous and well understood to be the best life saving tool in the case of cardiac arrest. The National Safety Council tells us that greater access to AED’s could save 40,000 lives each year.

Another startling statistic is that 69.5% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur at home. This is one of the reasons that learning CPR and investing in an AED are necessary steps to protecting the ones you love. Only approximately 46% of people who experience cardiac arrest outside a hospital receive immediate help before EMS arrives. Remember that this help can double or triple chances of survival. With more training and greater access to AED’s, the survival rate for cardiac arrest could skyrocket. 

It’s important that we as Americans understand that cardiac arrest is a deadly reality. And it deserves as much -if not more- attention and focus as we put into our health and safety every day. The statistics are shocking, indeed, but we all have the opportunity to take steps to prevent this tragedy from taking people away from us. 

At Safety and Health Solutions, we offer courses for certification in CPR and AED use for small groups or entire workplaces. We can also set you up with an AED for your home or office, and help you put one into your workplace, gym, or school. Put simply: a three hour course has a high potential to save someone’s life! And that person is likely to be someone you care about. So be sure to go to our homepage, check out our calendar, and choose an upcoming class that works for you! We offer courses for individuals all the way up to large groups, and getting the whole family or workplace trained is a fun group activity with huge benefits!