Health Watch -- Learn CPR

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Are you the weak link in your community's chain of survival?

Nearly half a million people have unexpected heart attacks away from hospitals. Chances are, these people won't get the help they need fast enough, and doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say you can do something to change that.

Dr. Paul Pepe, chairman of emergency medicine at UT Southwestern, says permanent brain damage can occur within four to five minutes of a heart attack, but it's physically impossible for emergency personnel to get to all heart attack victims in that amount of time.

This is where you and your neighbors come in. Less than 25 percent of Americans are trained in cardiovascular resuscitation, or CPR. That means that most bystanders don't know what to do when someone near them has a heart attack. Rapid response by trained bystanders can make a big difference in whether a heart attack victim survives.

You could learn CPR, but that won't make a big dent in your community's ability to respond to emergencies. Dr. Pepe suggests that you go beyond that. Organize CPR training for groups you belong to - your office, church group, school, neighborhood or other community organizations. That will make more of an impact and dramatically increase the chances that help will be available when it's needed.

To get information on CPR training, contact the American Heart Association at 1-800-AHA-USA-1 or Besides learning CPR, you can learn how to use automated defibrillators that are placed in many public settings.


March 2004