A Canadian is in cardiac arrest every 9 minutes, says report. Do you know how to help? – Winnipeg

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60,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen every year in Canada. Only 10 per cent of those people have a chance at surviving.

These numbers come from the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s recent report called Every second counts: Transforming resuscitation to restart more heartswhich calls for more awareness, education and action when it comes to cardiac arrest.

“We thought there were around 35,000 cardiac arrests that would happen every year in Canada,” she said. But now, knowing there’s 60,000–one every nine minutes, she said. “It really shines a light on the importance of people understanding what a cardiac arrest is, and, I think even more importantly, knowing how to act.”

Every second counts said only four per cent of Canadians can identify when someone is experiencing cardiac arrest. This leaves people experiencing it much more vulnerable to death.

“Brain injury can begin within five minutes,” the report said.

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It said that half of cardiac arrests in Canada happen in people under 65 years old. “Younger people can experience cardiac arrest as well, so it’s not just specific to older people,” Houde said.

It’s also important to know that a cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack, she said. “A cardiac arrest is an electrical problem with the heart. It’s like a breaker switch gets turned off and it can no longer pump blood, throughout the body.

“So a person experiencing cardiac arrest will collapse. They will be unresponsive. They’ll be either not breathing at all, or (have) very laboured breathing. Irregular breathing,” she said, describing a heart attack as a plumbing issue, where the flow of blood has slowed down and is blocked. “A person having a heart attack is going to be conscious for the most part.”


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The best ways to help someone whose heart has stopped is by giving them CPR or administering an automated external defibrillator (AED), shocking the system back into gear.

“Immediate CPR keeps the blood pumping to keep the brain and other vital organs alive. An automated AED will shock the heart to help it restart,” the report said.

But, not everyone uses these tools. While the report says 42 to 72 per cent of bystanders will give CPR to someone who is in cardiac arrest, only 13 per cent use an AED.

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“People need to know that the AEDs are very user friendly,” Houde said. “You’re not going to hurt somebody by using an AED. If you open up the AED, it talks you through what you need to do. I think the biggest thing to know is that it will not deliver a shock to a person if a shock is not warranted. So you’re not going to be causing any damage. You’re not going to hurt the person. You’re only going to help them.”

She said AEDs are mandated to be in every public area throughout Manitoba.

If you’re unsure of how to do CPR or how to use and AED, Houde said there are classes and 90 second videos demonstrating how to do CPR and use an AED available on heartandstroke.ca.

“We want people to know that these quick, rapid actions are really what everybody can do to save a life,” she said, adding to always call 9-1-1 first.

Houde said there also has to be a care component after someone experiences cardiac arrest.

“It’s a traumatic and people can be left with depression with PTSD,” she said. “Emotional support is going to be needed for the person that experienced it, for their family members, and certainly for anybody who might have stepped in as a bystander to assist.”

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The report said between 14 and 45 per cent of people who survive cardiac arrest experience depression, 13 to 61 per cent experience anxiety, and PTSD ranges from 19 to 27 per cent. ”


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