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Weekend Check-Up


January 27, 2018


The Importance of CPR and Basic Life Support Skills


By Ashley Monroe, BSN, RN, Education Coordinatorashely monroe

It is everyone’s worst nightmare to witness a loved one suffer cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest is defined as the sudden, unexpected loss of heart function, breathing, and consciousness ( It is a hard thing to think about, but it is important to be prepared for the worst, especially if someone in your household has risk factors or has experienced some form of heart disease.

Sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death in the United States and Canada, with nearly four out of five cases occurring outside a hospital. The numbers are staggering. Around 424,000 victims experience sudden cardiac arrest, ranging in age from young children to adults (

It is important to be aware of the risk factors, as stated by the Mayo Clinic, which include the following:

  • A family history of coronary artery disease, or other forms of heart disease
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Drinking too much alcohol (more than two drinks a day)
  • A previous episode of cardiac arrest or heart attack
  • Age (the incidence of sudden cardiac arrest increases with age)
  • Being male (men are two to three times more likely to experience sudden cardiac arrest)
  • Using illegal drugs (such as cocaine or amphetamines)
  • Nutritional imbalances (such as low potassium or magnesium levels)

If you mentally checked many of these boxes, you are at risk for heart disease or sudden cardiac arrest. Reducing your risk is the best strategy to avoid harmful effects to your heart. Many of these can risk factors can be avoided by making lifestyle changes. Focus on changing the things that you can now. Making healthy choices, such as getting at least 30 minutes of exercise, and eating a nutritious, balanced diet are key.

If your loved one has heart conditions, symptoms, or risk factors for sudden cardiac arrest, it is important to think about learning basic life support skills or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).  Even when emergency help is called immediately after witnessing a cardiac arrest, it can still take as long as ten minutes to receive life-saving CPR by emergency personnel, and by then resuscitation is rarely successful. Sadly, only 10 percent of victims survive who experience cardiac arrest outside of the hospital. If you start CPR immediately, this can increase your loved one’s chances of survival significantly (

Another life-saving device in the event of sudden cardiac arrest is an Automatic External Defribillator (AED). Sudden cardiac arrest is often confused with a heart attack. Cardiac arrest is caused by a disruption in the heart’s normal heart rhythm which then creates a disturbance in normal blood flow to the rest of the body and its vital organs, while a heart attack is generally caused by a blockage in the arteries causing a disruption in blood flow in that way ( An AED is important in reversing the effects of sudden cardiac arrest because it delivers a shock to the heart, which can cause the heart to start beating in its normal rhythm. The use of an AED combined with CPR greatly increases the victim’s chances of survival. As not all households are equipped with an AED or have one closely available, sometimes CPR is all that you can do with what you have at the time. It is important to deliver good quality chest compressions until more help arrives, as first responders will have an AED or equivalent with them when they get there. Many businesses and public places have AED’s on site. There is an app being updated for Winfield, and eventually Cowley County, that is called PulsePointAED to help locate the AED that is closest to you in the event that you need one in an emergency.

The Winfield Fire Department is leading the way in making Winfield a Heart Safe Community. If you have been thinking about learning CPR, now is the time to get to know the basics. The fire department and healthcare professionals in Winfield will be holding multiple basic hands-on CPR courses in the month of February, which is American Heart Month. Don’t forget to wear red on February 2nd for National Wear Red day to support those who are living with heart disease.

If you’re interested in learning basic life-saving skills or to find out more information on what it means for Winfield to be Heart Safe Community, please the Winfield Area Chamber of Commerce at 620-221-2420.


Ashley Monroe, BSN, RN, is the Education Coordinator at William Newton Hospital. If you have comments or story ideas, call 620.221.2300, ext. 1113, or e-mail.  

The "Weekend Check-Up" is a regular health column published in the Cowley Courier Traveler penned by employees and friends of William Newton Hospital.