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Learn how to start a heart in class

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — All it takes is 45 minutes to learn how to save somebody’s life.

It’s not only a good investment in time, but consider that a total stranger who took that 45 minutes might save your life some day.

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The annual Project Heart Start, in which participants learn to perform compression-only CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, will be held today at various locations across the state.

“The idea behind compression only CPR is to keep blood circulating and providing nutrition to the brain,” explains Dr. Barry Ramo, a cardiologist at the New Mexico Heart Institute and a founder of Project Heart Start. “Science has shown that it’s not necessary to do rescue breathing, the old way of performing CPR. The new way is call 911 and then compress two inches deep into the center of the chest, about 100 times a minute, roughly to the beat of the (Bee Gees) song ‘Staying Alive’ until the paramedics arrive.”

Also, says Ramo, use an automated external defibrillator as soon as possible, if one is available.

People who participate in Project Heart Start will not only learn how to recognize and assess a person experiencing cardiac distress, as well as perform compression-only CPR, they will also learn how to use an AED and how to save a choking victim using the Heimlich maneuver, Ramo says.


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“The goal is to change the miserable mortality rate of people with cardiac problems — people having a heart attack or those who have sudden cardiac arrest — before they get to the hospital,” Ramo says. Half of the people who currently have heart attacks die before getting to a hospital, many because they ignore the symptoms, says.

Last year, about 1,000 people in the metro area and 2,000 people around the state participated in Project Heart Start. Outside of the metro area this year, about a dozen communities around New Mexico are having Project Heart Start training sessions.

In addition, says Ramo, compression-only CPR is now included in seventh- and eighth-grade health classes in the Albuquerque and Rio Rancho public schools systems. Intel, Sandia National Laboratories, Central New Mexico Community College and the University of New Mexico also offer training sessions.