Damar Hamlin, a safety for the Buffalo Bills, collapsed on the football field after taking a strong blow to the chest, prompting emergency personnel to provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to try restarting his heart.
Receiving even a streamlined, hands-only version of CPR when a heart stops beating (cardiac arrest) can at least double a person's chances of surviving. However, only about half of those who have a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital receive CPR from a bystander. And, because four out of every five cardiac arrests occur at home, the life you might save with CPR is more likely to be that of a loved one or someone you know rather than a stranger. Here are the CPR fundamentals for adults:
Understand two basic characteristics of cardiac arrest.
How do you know if someone is experiencing a heart attack? The following are two distinguishing features:
There is no response. There is no reaction if you say loudly, "Are you okay?" and shake someone's shoulders roughly.
Breathing abnormally. Check to see if their chest is going up and down, or put your face close to their nose and mouth to hear if they are breathing normally. The brain cannot receive enough oxygen from labored, erratic breathing, such as gasping or snorting.
Understand how to perform hands-only CPR.
First, dial 911—or, better yet, instruct someone nearby to dial 911. Put the phone on speaker so that you can begin CPR while waiting for instructions from the emergency operator.
Place the heel of one hand on the person's chest, directly over the breastbone and between the nipples. Place the heel of your other hand on top. Lace your top hand's fingers through the fingers of your bottom hand.
Push down while maintaining your arms straight and your shoulders precisely above your hands. Push hard: compress the chest by at least two inches with your body weight.
View a video to help you understand the steps.
It is vital to know what to do in an emergency. The American Heart Association's one-minute hands-only CPR videos can help you understand the steps and the proper compression pace.
Community education, hospitals, companies, and the American Heart Association all offer CPR lessons. Hands-on experience in a CPR class will help you understand the proper compression pressure and timing.
Concerned about the time commitment? According to a 2022 JAMA Network Open study conducted in the Netherlands, even a single 20-minute training session — face-to-face or utilizing virtual reality — provides skills and confidence. When asked if they would be willing to do CPR on a stranger, nearly 75% of young people who had completed the brief training session six months previously replied yes.