Why You Need to Know CPR

For many, including actor Michael Clarke Duncan, this technique is the difference between life and death.

Posted: 07/20/2012 07:45 AM EDT

Last week, Oscar-nominated actor Michael Clarke Duncan, 54, was rushed to the hospital suffering from a heart attack in his Los Angeles home. His lifesaver was simple: CPR. Duncan’s reality-star girlfriend, Omarosa Manigualt-Stallworth, performed the technique on him at 2 a.m. to resuscitate him. And thankfully her actions worked—Duncan is currently in stable condition and is expected to make a full recovery.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a technique that anyone can use to save someone's life whose heart has stopped or if they have stopped breathing. CPR has been around since 1740, and over the years the recommendations of how to perform it correctly have changed. There are different techniques of CPR for those who are trained and untrained, writes the Huffington Post:

The Mayo Clinic reports that if you're not trained in CPR, you should just do hands-only CPR—which includes using your hands to compress the chest about 100 times per minute—until medical professionals arrive to take over.

If you're trained but don't quite remember all the steps, it's still recommended to do hands-only CPR; but if you're trained and remember what you're doing, the Mayo Clinic recommends doing about 30 chest compressions, with rescue breaths in-between.

To conduct CPR, remember the acronym "CAB," which stands for circulation, airway, breathing. Circulation means doing chest compressions to get the blood moving again, airway means tilting the person's head so that the airway is opened up, and breathing means breathing into the person's airway.

It's important to stress that CPR is the difference between life and death.

About 92 percent of people suffering from a heart attack die before they reach the hospital and health experts believe if more people knew CPR it could double and even triple a person's chance of survival. But, according to the American Heart Association, 70 percent of Americans feel helpless when the situation arises because they don't know how to do it. This is extremely problematic, given that 88 percent of all heart attacks occur at home.

The American Heart Association offers up some more reasons why we all need to know CPR:

—Failure to act in a cardiac emergency can lead to unnecessary deaths.

—Effective bystander CPR provided immediately after sudden cardiac arrest can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival, but only 32 percent of cardiac arrest victims get CPR from a bystander.

—Sadly, less than eight percent of people who suffer cardiac arrest outside the hospital survive.

—The American Heart Association trains more than 12 million people in CPR annually, to equip Americans with the skills they need to perform bystander CPR.

CPR is especially important to African-Americans, given that we are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack at home, work or other public places compared to our white counterparts. Also, our survival rate is twice as bad and we are less likely to receive CPR.

To find a CPR course in your area, go here.

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(Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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