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Hands-Only CPR Is a Simpler Way to Save Lives

The American Heart Association updated its guidelines in 2008 for what to do when a person's heart stops. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

If a person's heart stops, would you know how to perform CPR? CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, can save a life and reduce the risk of brain damage from loss of oxygen.

With traditional CPR, you give two breaths to force air into the lungs. Then you push hard on the chest thirty times. You repeat these two steps until the victim wakes up or medical help arrives.

But people may worry about getting sick from blowing into a stranger's mouth. Also, the training is easy to forget, especially during an emergency.

And those without training may not do anything for fear that they will do something wrong. So in two thousand eight the American Heart Association simplified its guidelines.

The group now calls for hands-only CPR for adults who suddenly collapse. Here is how it works:

A person has collapsed unconscious on the ground. The victim has lost color in the face and does not appear to be breathing. These are signs of cardiac arrest. This is the time to begin CPR.

Place your hands, one on top of the other, on the center of the chest. Push hard and fast. Aim for a rate of about one hundred compressions each minute. Chest compressions keep the blood flowing to the brain, heart and other organs.

Guidelines from two thousand five said only untrained people should use hands-only CPR. Those with training were told to use traditional CPR. But now the heart association says everyone should use hands-only CPR unless they feel strong about their ability to do rescue breathing.

The guidelines were updated after three studies showed that the hands-only method was just as effective as traditional CPR. Scientists say enough oxygen remains in a person's system for several minutes after breathing stops.

But the experts say you should still use traditional CPR with a combination of breaths and compressions on babies and children. Traditional CPR should also be used for adults found already unconscious and not breathing normally. And traditional CPR should be used for any victims of drowning or collapse from breathing problems.

These are all examples where CPR with mouth-to-mouth breathing may be more helpful that hands-only CPR. Because there are many of these cases, people should still learn CPR with mouth-to-mouth.

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report. You can learn more at For a link, go to I'm Steve Ember.