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CPR with the American Heart Association

Barbara Kinter, Program Manager/Training Center Coordinator and American Heart Association (AHA) Volunteer, answers frequently asked questions about cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

1. What exactly does CPR do?

CPR does for the victim person what the victim person is unable to do for themselves – their heart and lungs are not working, so we work for them. CPR helps pump blood and oxygen to the brain and heart.

2. How much of a difference can CPR make in survival?

CPR makes a HUGE difference in the chance of survival! When a person’s heart stops suddenly, providing CPR can double or even triple the chances of survival.

3. The AHA has developed something called The Chain of Survival. Where does CPR fit in this chain?

CPR is very early in the Chain of Survival!  In the Adult COS it is the second link – immediately after recognition of arrest and calling 911 (activating the emergency response). By starting CPR immediately, the responder is helping to provide blood and oxygen to the brain and heart while waiting for the AED to arrive. AED stands for automated external defibrillator. It’s a lightweight, portable device used to detect abnormal cardiac rhythms that require treatment. An AED can deliver an electrical shock to convert the rhythm back to normal.

4. What are the two types of CPR and which kind can be done by someone who is not a health care professional?

The AHA encourages bystanders who are not trained in CPR to give compression-only CPR, or Hands-Only CPR, if they see a teen or an adult collapse. In the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, survival rates of those who have received Hands-Only CPR and those who have received CPR with breaths are similar. There are 2 simple steps to follow: phone 9-1-1, and push hard and fast in the center of the chest. If you are willing and able to give breaths, you should do so, especially for children or anyone who might be in cardiac arrest due to respiratory issues such as drowning or drug overdose This is referred to as conventional CPR.

5. How can you tell if someone is having a cardiac arrest, or if they’re having some other kind of medical emergency?

If the person is unresponsive and not breathing or is only gasping, they need CPR. It’s better to give CPR to someone who doesn’t need it than not to give it to someone who does need it. CPR is not likely to harm someone who is not in cardiac arrest. But without CPR, someone who is in cardiac arrest may die. So if you aren’t sure, provide CPR. You may save a life.

6. How long does CPR training take? What’s involved? Who should get it?

EVERYONE should have CPR training. For lay providers, the AHA offers options to learn both Hands-Only and conventional CPR. For example, you can take the AHA Heartsaver course and learn how to perform CPR on adults and receive a course completion card in less than two hours. You can also refer to AHA’s online resources to learn more about Hands-Only CPR.

7. The AHA trains a lot of people in CPR – even children. Can kids really do it effectively?

Absolutely. Children as young as 8 or 9 have been shown to do effective CPR. My daughter was certified the first time when she was 10!

8. According to a study, men are more likely to receive CPR in public locations than women. Why is that?

Some people are concerned about potential accusations or misunderstanding of intent, fear of causing injury, and concerns about removing a woman’s clothing as reasons for not wanting to perform bystander CPR for women. Educational and policy efforts should be initiated to help inform and empower rescuers to perform CPR on women and men equally.

The AHA offers a variety of CPR courses, included blended learning & eLearning course options that allow you to learn on your own time and at your own pace. For more information, visit

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