Q: Do you agree with my friends who have urged me to enroll in a CPR training program because my husband had a heart attack several months ago?
A: Your friends' advice makes good sense since your husband's heart attack puts him at a greater risk for having a cardiac arrest caused by an abnormal heart rhythm.
About 70 percent of cardiac arrests occur at home, and promptly administered CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) can maintain an adequate blood flow to the brain until professional help arrives.
Immediate CPR is essential; survival rate is significantly reduced after just four minutes without CPR.
One study in New York showed that about one out of a hundred people survived a cardiac arrest suffered outside a hospital. Only one-third of the victims received CPR while waiting for paramedics to arrive. Those who did receive CPR, however, were about four times more likely to survive than the others.
This was true even though CPR was carried out correctly only about half the time.
It is noteworthy that people over 50, who have a spouse or other family member with heart disease, are the ones least likely to take CPR courses, according to a survey of about 1,400 people enrolled in an American Red Cross CPR course. Only 9 percent of those enrolled were over the age of 50, and less than 4 percent took the course because a family member was at increased risk for a heart attack. About 75 percent were under age 40, and the vast majority enrolled in the course because it was a job requirement.
You can obtain information on how to attend a CPR course by calling either the American Red Cross or the American Heart
Dr. Margolis is professor of medicine and biological chemistry at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.