Your neighbor can’t help you, or themselves: Fewer than half of Americans know basic first aid or CPR for heart attacks
02/26/2018 // Zoey Sky // Views

Based on data from a Cleveland Clinic survey, "[w]hen it comes to heart health emergencies, many Americans don’t have the knowledge to aid others." Most troubling of all is, they don't even know how to help themselves.

Cleveland Clinic’s online survey of the general population took a look at America's awareness of "heart health emergencies." The survey studied reports from 1,007 adults, which were made up of 470 men and 537 women aged 18 years and above who lived in the continental U.S. The online survey was conducted by Research Now from October 8 to 23, 2017.

Results from the survey show that only 54 percent of Americans know how to perform CPR. But out of six individuals, only one person knows the proper technique for bystander CPR, which only requires chest compressions, and no breaths, on an adult. Meanwhile, only 11 percent are aware of the proper pace for performing the compressions, which is 100 to 120 beats per minute. (Related: How and Why CPR Has Evolved Over the Years.)

During cardiac arrest, an automated external defibrillator (AED) can save the patient's life. Yet only about 27 percent of Americans have an AED at their workplaces.

Dr. Steve Nissen, chairman of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic, said, "When someone is suffering from cardiac arrest, time is not on their side." He adds, "Immediate CPR can be the difference between life and death, doubling or even tripling a person’s chance of survival. It’s a skill that can be easily learned, and we encourage everyone to equip themselves with this knowledge and not be afraid to use it during an emergency."


Americans require additional education when it comes to identifying and responding to a heart attack, especially regarding "their own heart emergencies." The results indicate that many Americans are unsure about the difference between heart attack and stroke.

About 59 percent of the participants believed that "sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg" was a symptom of a heart attack, and 39 percent identified slurred speech as a heart attack symptom.

While most Americans recognized that "pressure/squeezing in the chest, shortness of breath, and pain in one or both arms" were heart attack symptoms, less than half discerned back or jaw pain and nausea/vomiting as other indicators.

Dr. Nissen explains that a whopping 735,000 Americans have a heart attack yearly, which means it is important to learn about its symptoms so people will know what to do during an emergency. He warns that studying the proper response to a heart attack might save your life or the life of a loved one.

Even though most Americans know that calling 911 is the first thing that they must do when someone is having a heart attack, only 36 percent knew that the patient must immediately chew some aspirin. On the other hand, at least one in ten Americans believe that they should call their physician or drive to the hospital if they are experiencing a heart attack.

To add to the confusion, 87 percent wrongly believe that cardiac arrest is another term for heart attack. Cardiac arrest actually refers to when the heart suddenly stops, and this is often caused by the malfunction of the heart’s electrical system. Heart attacks are caused by blockages in a coronary artery, which stops the flow of blood to the heart muscle and damages it.

The survey findings also determined that:

  • There is a generation gap when it comes to heart health. Compared to 32 percent of millennials, 49 percent of baby boomers know more about heart health overall. About 37 percent of millennials would prefer to spend time on Instagram than study about heart health.
  • Most Americans believe that it's their doctor's responsibility to teach them about their heart health. While 87 percent of Americans expect their doctors to tell them about their heart health, 62 percent report that they make it a point to inquire about their heart health themselves. Boomers will often inquire about their heart health, but 49 percent of millennials admit that they don’t know what to ask their doctor.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and around the globe.

Foods that boost your heart health

Consume more of these superfoods to boost your heart health:

  • Asparagus – Half a cup of asparagus contains folate, vitamins A, C, and K and "a full range of minerals" such as like magnesium and potassium for proper muscle function. Asparagus also contains omega-3 fatty acids and is a good source of protein.
  • Broccoli – Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables can help lower the risk of cardiac-associated death more than other fruits and vegetables.
  • Chickpeas – One cup of chickpeas contains vitamins, especially the B complex vitamins, minerals (such as zinc, iron, magnesium, selenium, and potassium), amino acids, and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Salmon - Salmon is rich in vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. Vitamin D "aids calcium digestion," and it supports immune system function; can help with weight loss; and it boosts proper brain function, especially as we age.

You can read more stories about natural ways to prevent heart attacks and stroke at

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