AEDs: The Lifesaver Anyone Can Use

, or AEDs were initially designed to offer first responders, such as firefighters, police officers, lifeguards, flight attendants, security guards, and  teachers an easy-to-use means of lifesaving care for victims of cardiac arrest.  And they work!

Ask Julia Simms, who thought she had a case of the flu and so told her husband to go ahead with his plans to play golf.   But in the time it took for him to turn to the closet and back, Julia had gone into cardiac arrest.  That’s how fast it can happen, and quick response is crucial.  Firefighters arrived within minutes and, with a combination of CPR and the use of an AED, Julia was revived.

But you don’t have to be a trained rescuer to use an AED, and increasingly they can be found in gyms, swimming pools, businesses, schools, and, yes, even homes.

In America, 96% of homes have smoke detectors, and nearly 75% have fire extinguishers.  Yet the likelihood that any given home will experience a fire requiring emergency services in a given year is about 1%.  On the other hand, the Center for Disease Control estimates that almost 7% of Americans over the age of 20 have coronary artery disease (a risk factor for cardiac arrest), and, of the 647,000 deaths by heart attack that occur every year, almost 70% occur in the home. And yet AEDs are far less common in households.

Can Anyone Buy an AED?

AEDs are available to the public, but most units require a doctor’s prescription.  The only unit currently available for non-prescription use is the Philips HeartStart OnSite AED.  Its light weight (about three pounds) and ease-of-use make it a perfect choice as a home safety device.  It features guided audio instructions, built-in self-test and visual cues that make it easy for the layperson to operate.

While laws concerning the use of AEDs are regulated state-by-state, a good first step for anyone seeking to purchase an AED, particularly for home use, is to become certified in CPR and AED use.  To discover the laws regulating AEDs for your state, you can refer to the National Conference of State Legislatures website.


Does Every Home Need an AED?

Certain factors make the likelihood of cardiac rest higher, so those with higher risk individuals in the home should definitely consider purchasing an AED.  The most obvious candidates for home AEDs would be those who have previously suffered cardiac arrest or who have a history of other forms of heart disease, such as heart rhythm disorders or congenital heart defects.

Other factors that contribute to heart disease risk are a family history of coronary artery disease, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, and a sedentary lifestyle. Additionally, males are more likely to suffer cardiac arrest, as are those who use certain drugs such as cocaine or amphetamines, those with certain nutritional imbalances (for example, potassium and magnesium deficiencies), and those who suffer sleep apnea or chronic kidney disease.

If you or a loved one struggles with these conditions, then you might consider having an AED on hand.  Think of it as an investment in your health.  After all, high blood pressure alone can increase the risk of heart disease by nearly 200%.  Having an AED raises the chances of survival dramatically in cases of cardiac arrest.  The CDC asserts that CPR combined with use of an AED within the first few minutes of a cardiac arrest can double or triple a person’s chance of survival.

Safety for Everyone

Heart disruptions and cardiac arrest can occur unpredictably and at any age.  Consider, for example, the case of Matt McKenna, who was a fit fifteen-year-old boy.  Matt had returned home from a summer lacrosse camp and had decided to go to the local pool to swim laps.  Matt’s mother noticed him doubled over and when she got to him she found him unresponsive.  Matt was in cardiac arrest.  Thanks to lifeguard Mike Mierza, who came running with an AED, Matt survived.

With the cost of AEDs becoming increasingly affordable, they are more feasible as a home safety device.  They’re compact, light, easy to use, and a solid investment in you and your loved ones’ future.