Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) have become an integral part of saving lives in the United States today. AEDs are the only piece of equipment outside of a medical setting that can be used to save the life of a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) victim. With SCAs striking approximately 250,000 Americans every year, making sure that AEDs are available in public places has become important for small, medium and large sized communities across the U.S. Many states have even passed laws requiring that health clubs, fitness centers and gyms have AEDs available for sudden cardiac arrest emergencies.
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) and the American Heart Association (AHA) have started working together in the hopes of saving more SCA victims’ lives. Health clubs and fitness centers are places where individuals may have an increased risk of cardiac arrest. Providing AEDs and training employees on their use can help ensure that lives will be saved by early intervention.
The program that ACE and AHA have developed is a seven hour training course that covers both cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and AED training. This course provides fitness center employees with lifesaving skills needed to care for an SCA victim until EMS responders arrive to take over.
Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when a person’s heart starts to beat erratically; this is known as ventricular fibrillation (VF). VF can happen from a blow to the chest, overexertion while exercising, or for other unknown reasons. After VF starts, the victim quickly loses consciousness and then stops breathing. If defibrillation (an electric shock to the heart) is not delivered within three to five minutes, the resulting effect can be brain damage. If more than five minutes passes, death may result. The chances of a victim surviving an SCA decrease by ten percent for every minute that passes without treatment.
Sudden cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack and cannot be treated in the same way. Heart attacks are generally caused by a blockage in the arteries and are accompanied by warning signs that can occur sometimes days or even weeks in advance. SCA usually happens without warning and without regard to age or social or economic status. Children, teenagers, adults and the elderly can all be victims of sudden cardiac arrest. But the older the person or the more out of shape he or she is, the higher their risk of SCA are.
The health care business is big business in the United States and as such, health clubs, fitness centers and gyms need to pay close attention to making their facilities as safe as possible for their patrons. As many as 30% of the U.S. population is considered obese (having a BMI (body mass index) of 30 or more) and if this trend continues as many as 43% may be obese by 2018! With statistics like this, it’s easy to see why health clubs have continued to be a popular choice for Americans seeking to improve their health and lose weight. Along with this increased interest though, comes the risk of someone over doing their exercise and suffering a sudden cardiac arrest during their workout. People are urged to get physicals and check with their physicians before beginning a workout program, but SCA is almost never able to be predicted. Having an AED on hand in every health club, fitness center and gym, and having the health club employees trained on their use is of the utmost importance.
The International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), a certification agency for personal trainers now requires that all students who enroll in one of their certification courses submit proof that they have been AED and CPR certified. Eleven states and the District of Columbia all have laws requiring that health clubs have at least one automated external defibrillator onsite.
Ensuring the safety as well as the health of their patrons is a big responsibility for health clubs, fitness centers and gyms. Adding automated external defibrillators to the list of safety equipment is a good start.