You can hear it every time you put your head to someone’s chest: the lub-dub, lub-dub, lub-dub of a heart pumping 60 to 80 beats per minute, delivering oxygenated blood to organs and tissues throughout the body. The pumping action of your heart is controlled by an electrical system, which sets and regulates the rhythm and keeps your heartbeat steady.
Sometimes, however, that electrical system can go haywire, causing the heart to beat erratically, slower or more quickly, or in irregular patterns, and sometimes it even stops beating altogether. When the heart stops pumping blood, it’s called cardiac arrest. If immediate action isn’t taken to resuscitate the heart, the person will die.
Around 300,000 to 400,000 people experience cardiac arrest every year. It’s possible to survive cardiac arrest without lasting damage only if treatment is quickly delivered. A delay may lead to brain damage or even death. At present, cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in the United States.