If the thought of performing mouth-to-mouth CPR may have deterred you, the American Heart Association has released new guidelines that de-emphasize that form of cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
"Instead of beginning with rescue breathing you start with chest compressions," said Dr. Garrett Emery, an emergency physician at Davis Hospital and Medical Center. "The new guidelines state that when you find someone in cardiac arrest, you perform 30 compressions and then administer two rescue breaths and continue in that manner until medical attention arrives."
The previous guidelines recommended opening the airway and breathing into the victim's mouth before doing the compressions.
"The most important part of CPR is to circulate blood, and that is accomplished through chest compressions," Emery said. "It was felt that too much time and energy was spent in trying to perform rescue breathing and the chest compressions were being delayed."
With the chest compressions, some air gets forced in and out of the lungs, Emery said.
Bridgette Hooton, a charge nurse in the emergency room at Ogden Regional Medical Center, said people are typically fearful to administer CPR, especially when it comes to rescue breaths.
"They typically don't want to do mouth-to-mouth on a stranger," she said. "But if you do the chest compressions and you do them correctly, you are still getting the blood circulating and that's buying more time for the victim."
Hooton said the American Heart Association states that chest compressions should be done hard, fast and deep, at a rate of at least 100 times per minute.
"If you are building up a sweat, then you know you're doing it correctly," Hooton said. "If you have another person to help, one can do the compressions and the other can do the breaths."
Teri Howick, a registered nurse and educator in the emergency room at McKay-Dee Hospital, said a depth of at least two inches is recommended for adults. For children and infants, compressions as deep as 1.5 inches should be performed. All compressions should be done at a rate of 100 per minute.
"This is much faster than before. You know you are doing the compressions fast enough if playing the song 'Staying Alive' by the Bee Gees is in your head," she said.
Howick also said more bystanders would be inclined to help if they didn't have to do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
"The American Heart Association recognized this and realized, that even without mouth-to-mouth, you have enough oxygen in your blood to last you for a while, until rescuers arrive," she said. "You no longer look, listen and feel for breathing. It takes precious time."
All three health care experts said people wait much too long before seeking help when they are having a heart attack.
"It's better to come in and not have anything wrong than to sit on the couch and truly be having a heart attack," Hooton said.
Howick said people also mistake a heart attack for heartburn symptoms or other minor ailments.
"They rationalize the pain as something else like the macho nacho burrito they ate that's giving them heartburn," she said.
Emergency personnel also recommend chewing four baby aspirin or one adult aspirin while waiting for help to arrive -- and don't worry about the aspirin causing stomach trouble, Hooton said. The benefits of taking the aspirin far outweigh skipping it.
Emery said the symptoms of a heart attack are different in men and women. Men typically complain of the classic crushing chest pain, pain down the left arm, sweating and nausea. Women complain of a backache, shortness of breath, nausea, unusual fatigue and anxiety.
According to the American Heart Association, 92 percent of people having a heart attack die before reaching a hospital. Statistics prove, however, that CPR can greatly increase the chance of survival.
"CPR is simple and when used on a person in cardiac arrest you will only help that person," Emery said. "In other words, there is no harm in trying."