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Heart Attacks: Simpler Rules for CPR Announced

I’m Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Health Report.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, can save the life of a heart attack victim. When the heart is in cardiac arrest, it stops pumping blood. Breathing stops. The victim falls and does not react. Without lifesaving measures, the brain starts to die within four to six minutes.

CPR combines rescue breaths and repeated pressure on the chest. It keeps blood and oxygen flowing to the heart and brain.

The American Heart Association has new guidelines for the public about how to do CPR. They appeared last month in its journal Circulation. The heart association says the steps are simpler than before and easy to follow.

The biggest change is in the number of chest compressions. The earlier guidelines called for fifteen chest compressions for every two breaths. The new ones call for thirty compressions for every two breaths -- in adults as well as children. The steps are repeated over and over until medical help arrives.

To do compressions, an individual places one hand on top of the other and presses down into the chest. The idea is to push hard and push fast, at a rate of one hundred compressions per minute. With a newborn baby, two fingers should be used.

Studies found that continuous compressions increase blood flow through the body. This would give the victim more time until a defibrillator can be found or the heart can begin to pump again on its own.

A defibrillator is a device that sends electric shocks to the heart in an effort to return normal pumping. Heart experts say CPR is important not only before defibrillation but also immediately after.

The heart association says one shock generally helps to return a normal heartbeat.

Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in the United States and Canada. The heart association says most cases happen at home or someplace else other than a hospital.

Victims usually die before they can be brought to a hospital, because most members of the public do not know what to do. The American Heart Association says CPR given immediately after cardiac arrest can sharply increase the chance of survival.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Cynthia Kirk. The new CPR guidelines can be read on the Web at heart dot o-r-g ( And Internet users can read and listen to our reports at I’m Steve Ember.