A study reveals more women die from cardiac arrest – because bystanders may be afraid of performing CPR
A recent study sponsored by the American Heart Association (AHA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) looked at almost 20,000 cases of cardiac arrest. The study found that only 39% of women experiencing cardiac arrest in public were given CPR, whereas 45% of men received it.
The men studied were 23% more likely to survive.
Women and heart disease
Heart attacks and cardiac arrest are sometimes thought of as a male issue, but women suffer from these conditions and heart disease overall at alarming rates:
- “Heart disease is the leading cause of death of American women, killing more than a third of them.”
- “More than 200,000 women die each year from heart attacks – five times as many women as breast cancer.”
- “More than 159,000 women die each year of congestive heart failure, accounting for 56.3% of all heart failure deaths.”
These numbers are a bit lower but similar in scope to the numbers for men. So, why the disparity in the number of female lives saved thanks to CPR?
Fear of rendering aid
While the study shows that strangers are more willing to help men experiencing cardiac arrest than women, “no gender difference was apparent in CPR rates for people who had taken ill at home, where a rescuer is more likely to know the person needing help.”
Some of the reasons cited:
- “’It can be kind of daunting thinking about pushing hard and fast on the center of a woman’s chest’ making some people fearful of hurting the woman,’ said Audrey Blewer, a University of Pennsylvania researcher who led the study. …
- Another study leader, Dr. Benjamin Abella, said that bystanders are worried about moving a woman’s clothes or touching her breasts, despite the fact that if you administer CPR in the correct manner, you wouldn’t even need to do this.”
There is also fear about being held legally liable for rendering aid that could harm someone, though as we’ve covered in a previous blog, every state has Good Samaritan laws on the books that protect people trying to save a life. In some states, however, you do need to be certified in CPR to have protection under these laws.
What about mouth-to-mouth resuscitation?
When most of us think of CPR, we think of pressing on the chest and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. But The American Heart Association has recently revised CPR procedures to make rescue breathing optional when rendering care to adults or teens. This “hands-only CPR” is simple and it works:
- A study led by Dr. Ken Nagao at Tokyo’s Surugadai Nihon University Hospital examined the implications of this failure to respond. Cardiac arrest victims on whom no CPR was applied (approximately 70% of 4,068 incidents) were not only far less likely to survive, their chances of suffering brain damage from the incident increased if they did pull through.
- 18% of the victims in the study received traditional CPR that included mouth-to-mouth. Those patients saw an improved survival and recovery rate. 11% of those in the study had the chest-compression-only technique applied – and they were 2.2 times less likely to experience brain damage than those who didn’t receive any CPR at all.
- Hands-only CPR cannot be used on small children and infants, nor individuals who have been found unconscious or definitively suffered the respiratory failure that leads to cardiac arrest. For greater detail, read our blog: “Hands-Only CPR vs. Traditional CPR.”
A 3-hour class gets you certified
Three hours is all it takes to become CPR and AED certified. This is a skill that you can carry with you the rest of your life and you’ll be prepared to take life-saving action on a moment’s notice – on men, women, or children – whether they are strangers or loved ones.
Help reverse the statistics and learn to save lives equally.
One Beat CPR+AED offers American Heart Association-certified CPR and AED courses to South Florida businesses, schools, medical professionals, families, and individuals. Call 1-800-ONE-BEAT for the latest class schedule, or connect with us online.