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You Can Save a Life

By taking 60 seconds to learn hands-only CPR — now

En español | If you think you can't perform CPR in an emergency because you haven't taken a class or your certification has lapsed, think again.

Sign up for AARP's Health Newsletter.

The guidelines for administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation have changed greatly over the past few years, making CPR both easier to provide and more effective, regardless of whether you've had formal training.

Today, there are three approved methods for delivering life-saving CPR in situations of cardiac arrest (also called a "sudden cardiac arrest") when, because of reasons varying from exertion to cardiovascular disease to unknown causes, a person's heart suddenly stops beating and he or she stops breathing.

Without oxygen, permanent brain damage can result in as little as four minutes, with death following soon after. However, the immediate delivery of CPR, even by an untrained bystander, can protect and sustain a victim until skilled medical assistance arrives.

According to the American Heart Association, more than 300,000 non-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the U.S. each year, with 80 percent of all cardiac arrests happening at home.

In other words, the life you save will likely belong to someone you love.

The "new" CPR

Aside from revised guidelines for conventional CPR, in which mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is paired with chest compressions, CPR options now include compression-only CPR (also called hands-only CPR) and AED-assisted CPR, which employs an easy-to-use "automated external defibrillator" to safely deliver an electric shock that jump-starts the heart.

The three CPR methods are explained — and demonstrated — via instructional videos on the following pages.

A 2011 study published by the American Heart Association found that just watching a brief video about compression-only CPR, such as the 60-second hands-only CPR video we feature on page 3, provides viewers with enough awareness and confidence to successfully perform CPR in an emergency.

Next: Don't be afraid to perform CPR. >>

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