It occurs way too often; once every two minutes to be exact. While at work, at home, driving, on the mountain, or anywhere else, people die of sudden cardiac arrest - an unexpected loss of heart function that affects more than 325,000 Americans every year and is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Every so often, you hear the feel good story about how citizen cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and/or an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) saving someone's life. But what you don't hear is the far too frequent story of stunned witnesses; just standing as someone dies.Incidents like this happen considerably more than you might imagine; more than 100,000 times per year. In fact, it is estimated that only 30 percent of out-of-hospital SCA victims will receive bystander CPR and significantly fewer will have defibrillation prior to Emergency Medical Services (EMS) arrival. With a person's chance of survival decreasing by 10 percent with every minute that passes, inaction prior to the arrival of professional EMS assistance almost always results in death. So why aren't citizens more responsive? For decades, SCA has flown under the radar and generalized as "heart attack." Most bystanders are reluctant to respond because of a lack of confidence and/or knowledge of CPR, fears of giving mouth-to-mouth and liability issues, ignorance to the signs of SCA and the absence of access to lifesaving AEDs.Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not list SCA as a "Notifiable Disease" and therefore does not require reporting agencies to document it as a cause of death. This results in extremely inaccurate and limited data and thereby restrains prevention efforts. New research and advancements in technologies are changing the way in which we view and respond to SCA. The general increase of SCA awareness, liability protection under the Good Samaritan Law, the introduction of hands-only CPR, legislation regarding CPR and AED education, and the simplicity and reduction in cost to acquire defibrillators allow for a boost in prevention efforts.Despite this recent progress, SCA remains a local and global health problem. Furthering the issue locally, Eagle County residents and guests are at an increased risk for SCA due to the aging demographic, high-altitudes/lower oxygen, colder temperatures, excessive lifestyle behaviors and a large underinsured population. According to national statistics, an estimated 50 residents and hundreds of Vail Valley visitors will experience a SCA this year, and most will not survive. But there is something we can do to change this and that is the simple and immediate response of: CALL. PUSH. and SHOCK. A simple, straightforward message designed to save lives by performing three simple steps: 1: Call 911. 2: Push hard and fast in the center of the chest or perform hands-only CPR.3: Administer a shock using an AED.It's time we unite our community and stand up to this largely preventable cause of death to save more lives in Eagle County.Lynn Blake is a sudden cardiac arrest survivor and founder of Starting Hearts, a local nonprofit dedicated to saving the lives of SCA in our community, and a cooperative partner in the Vail Valley Partnership's Health & Wellness Initiative. The Vail Valley Health & Wellness Initiative is led by the Vail Valley Partnership in conjunction with like-minded businesses, trade associations, consumer organizations and economic development organizations whose goal is to increase medical groups and meetings in the Vail Valley.
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