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What CPR Stands For & How To Perform It


What is CPR?

The American Heart Association has identified CPR as an essential link in the chain of survival for victims of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). SCA can strike anywhere at any time and victims of SCA must be treated immediately. If CPR is performed immediately, it can double or triple the chance of survival from an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA). Being CPR certified means you know how to quickly and properly administer CPR.

If you are in a situation where someone is experiencing SCA, delivering CPR can be the difference between life and death. But what does CPR stand for and how do you perform it?

What Does CPR Stand For?

CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. A normal resting adult human heart beats around sixty times per minute but, during cardiac arrest, the heart stops beating or beats ineffectively. That means it is not pumping blood to the brain and other vital organs. With a decrease in blood flow to the brain, the victim falls unconscious and could suffer brain damage in as few as three minutes without proper blood flow. After nine minutes without blood flow to the brain, there can be irreversible damage.

CPR is a method for manually pumping blood to a person’s vital organs and breathing air into their lungs when their heartbeat or breathing has stopped. CPR can help save lives and minimize the damaging effects that can occur while waiting for emergency responders to arrive.

high-quality cpr

Breaking It Down


The word cardio refers to the heart (originating from the Greek “kardía”, which means “heart”). The heart pumps oxygen-rich blood from the lungs to the rest of the body. Once that blood has delivered all of its oxygen, it returns to the lungs to receive more oxygen and the process begins again.


Pulmonary refers to the lungs (derived from the Latin “pulmo”, meaning lung). When a person inhales, oxygen enters their lungs and travels to the organs through their bloodstream. Every cell in the body needs oxygen to live. The average adult at rest takes between 12-20 breaths per minute.


Resuscitation means “the act of bringing someone or something back to life or waking them.” When a person’s heart has stopped, they require immediate CPR to be revived and to prevent damaging effects from lack of blood flow to the brain, heart, lungs, and other organs. CPR can greatly increase a patient’s chance of survival.

what to do before giving cpr

How to Perform CPR

If you come across someone unconscious and not breathing normally, you need to take action!

Call. Push. Shock.

Here are the key steps for providing high-quality CPR:

  • Make sure the scene is safe for you and the victim.
  • Check breathing and responsiveness. If there is no breathing, or only unusual gasping, and the person is not responsive, the person needs CPR.
  • Call 911! If you are alone, find a phone and call. If someone is with you, tell them to call 911 while you begin CPR. You can also call from your cell phone and put it on speakerphone as you begin compressions.
  • Push! Start compressions as soon as possible.
  • Shock. When an AED arrives, deliver a shock if needed.
  • Continue CPR until prehospital providers arrive

Important details to remember

Rescue breaths

The American Heart Association places a greater emphasis on compressions than they do on rescue breaths because, in most cases, circulating oxygen is more important than giving the patient more. 

Still, if you are willing, able, or trained in CPR, provide rescue breaths at a rate of two breaths for every 30 compressions during one cycle of CPR for adults. For smaller children and infants, deliver two rescue breaths for every 15 compressions. Remember to keep pauses between compressions as short as possible and do not over-ventilate the patient.

If you aren’t willing or able to do rescue breaths, or if you become exhausted by them, you can still help by providing hands-only CPR, which will still greatly improve the victim’s chance of survival. Studies show that hands-only CPR, even if it’s not performed perfectly, greatly increases a person’s chances of survival. 


Babies, young children, teens, and adults all have different needs for compression depth. But no matter what, you want to compress the victim’s chest 100-120 times per minute. The AHA has created a playlist of songs at this tempo that you can sing to yourself to help ensure you are keeping the right beat.

Learn about the difference between adult, child and infant CPR

EMS personnel

If emergency medical personnel arrive before you can access an AED, move aside for them to resume resuscitation efforts. Do not stop CPR until they arrive.

What is an AED?

Our hearts initiate each beat with a spark of electricity in our bodies. However, sometimes that internal pacemaker can run amuck, leading to SCA and other heart problems. An Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is a machine used to treat SCA. By sending an electric shock to the heart of a person in cardiac arrest, the AED restores a normal heart rhythm.

AED Benefits

AED shock delivery is another key link in the chain of survival. AEDs are “automated” and perform heart rhythm analysis to determine whether or not someone needs a shock. Although they are highly sophisticated medical devices, AEDs are specifically designed for use by laypersons with little training. 

While AEDs are specifically designed to be easy to use, training can provide additional confidence and potentially save precious moments in an emergency.

Become a Life Saver!

Bystanders matter! Patients who receive bystander CPR before the arrival of EMS are two to three times more likely to survive than those who fail to get CPR. In the absence of bystander intervention, and with EMS arrival often taking over 5 minutes, virtually all SCA victims would die without bystander CPR and defibrillation.

10 reasons why CPR is important

Sudden Cardiac Arrest is witnessed by a bystander in approximately 37% of cases. That bystander could be you! Being trained in CPR provides the knowledge, confidence and skills to stay calm in a medical emergency and help a person in need. Individuals certified in CPR are prepared to make a difference in their community by being ready to jump into action anywhere a cardiac arrest happens.

Research shows that a person suffering from SCA who receives early CPR has a higher likelihood of survival and recovery. In some cases, the victim may return to life with minimal side effects after receiving high-quality CPR. And yet, only a small portion of the U.S. population is trained in CPR annually.

Learn CPR and be prepared to save a life!

*All information on the Avive website is provided in good faith. However, Avive makes no representation or warranty of any kind, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, validity, or completeness of any information on the Site. Any medical/health information on the Site is for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical/health advice.


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