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Moving to the Beat

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Moving to the Beat

If you experience heart problems or know somebody who does, you've probably wondered what differentiates cardiac arrest from heart attack. 

"Heart attacks occur when the blood flow to the heart stops," said Clay Sizemore, MD, interventional cardiologist at Cardiovascular Consultants of South Georgia. "Cardiac arrest refers to the sudden stopping of the heartbeat, which is almost always fatal if not immediately tended to by a medical professional or bystander." 

When it comes to helping people suffering from cardiac arrest, fast action by those nearby plays a huge role in their chance of survival and recovery. 

Early Warning Signs

Heart attack is one of the main causes of cardiac arrest. That is why it is critical to seek immediate medical attention if you experience warning signs of a heart attack, including:

  • Back pain
  • Chest pain
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

A person on the brink of cardiac arrest may also experience an intense shortness of breath. It is common for patients to feel dizzy, disoriented, and like they are going to faint. If you notice that someone around you is exhibiting any of these symptoms, and they escalate to what appears to be cardiac arrest, call 911. 

Using an AED Machine

If you have access to an automated external defibrillator or AED machine, you can also lessen a person's risk of death due to cardiac arrest by restarting their heart rhythm with an electrical shock. In addition to being carried by emergency medical personnel, AEDs can be found mounted to the wall in airports, schools, and shopping malls. 

When using an AED, it is important to remember the correct order of steps to take if you want to succeed in reviving the patient. 

To correctly operate the AED machine, you will need to:

  • Remove the clothing of the person having the cardiac arrest and make sure that their chest is dry (wipe off their chest if necessary). 
  • Attach the pads to the lower left side of the chest and allow the AED machine to analyze the heart's rhythm. 
  • After making sure that no one is touching the patient, yell, "CLEAR!" and then perform a shock if the AED has instructed you to do so. 
  • Once the AED machine has elicited the shock, begin performing CPR. 

The Power of Hands-Only CPR

After someone calls 911, you can help by providing hands-only CPR. This type of CPR involves pushing on a patient's chest at a fast rate without providing mouth-to-mouth rescue breaths. 

"Unfortunately, people who happen to be present during someone else's cardiac arrest often feel powerless to help in any meaningful way," Dr. Sizemore said. "It's that inaction that contributes to a lot of fatalities. We want to encourage people to help even if they don't have much experience."

Even if you have never received professional training, you can still perform hands-only CPR, which is designed to be a simple and achievable method for most people. By performing hands-only CPR until a medical professional arrives, you could help save somebody's life. 

To begin the hands-only CPR:

  • Push hard on the patient's chest 100-200 beats per minute. To get the correct rhythm, imagine pressing to the beat of "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees. 
  • Stay consistent and refuse to stop. The likelihood that the patient will survive depends in part on your ability to stay focused. Don't lose confidence just because you may have never performed hands-only CPR until now. 
  • Remember to press toward the center of the chest. To maximize your success, it is important to stay in the middle of the chest instead of directly over the heart. 

"Saving the life of someone in cardiac arrest isn't reserved for medics," Dr. Sizemore said. "Anyone can help improve chances of survival by simply having the courage to perform hands-only CPR or use an AED machine. We highly encourage bystanders to get involved when they can."

Preventive Measures to Protect Your Heart

Certain health and wellness decisions can effectively decrease your risk of experiencing cardiac events, such as cardiac arrest or heart attack. To better protect your health:

  • If you smoke, take steps to quit. 
  • Keep regular appointments with your healthcare provider. 
  • Maintain healthy blood pressure, cholesterol levels and weight. 
  • Manage stress. 

Eager to know more about the status of your heart's health? Contact a provider today at