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On the Brink of Death – Can AEDs Bring People Back to Life?

girl in front of tombstone

Debunking the Myth

Can an AED Restart the Heart?


Is it possible to bring someone who has flatlined back to life with an AED? In short, the answer is ‘no.’ In order for a person who is in SCA to be saved by an AED, their heart must be in fibrillation. This means, the heart is quivering or suffering an irregular heartbeat. An AED functions to ‘defibrillate’ the heart. In simple terms, it bring the heartbeat back to normal rhythm.

Once the heart has stopped and a person has ‘flatlined,’ there is no way to resuscitate the victim with an AED. People often think that when a person goes into SCA, their heart ‘stops’. In fact, the heart continues to beat, just in an irregular way, known as “fibrillation”. When the heart is in fibrillation, it cannot pump oxygenated blood around the body to the brain and to other vital organs. An AED shocks the fibrillating heart and returns it to normal rhythm by ‘defibrillating’ it. Watch the video below on cardiac arrest and learn the basics of CPR and how to use an AED.

Does Having a Heart Attack Lead to SCA?

In certain cases, a heart attack could result in a person going into SCA. But these two events don’t always occur together and SCA can happen in people with no history of heart disease. In fact, the majority of victims don’t realize they had heart disease until after experiencing a heart episode such as a heart attack or SCA. Heart attacks can happen to almost anyone and without warning. In Canada, approximately 63,000 people per year suffer from their first heart attack.

How to Live a Healthier Life After SCA

healthy meal on plate

We hear it time and time again. Eat healthy, stay active, get lots of sleep and drink lots of water. Well, unfortunately, it’s all true. To avoid heart issues down the road, everyone should learn to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Those who were given a second chance due to lifesaving measures such as CPR and an AED will want to make changes to prevent another cardiac episode. What changes can be made?

  • Eat a heart healthy diet – read our blog: New Year, New You – Tips to Living a More Heart Healthy Lifestyle for ideas!
  • Stay active – exercise does not mean having to go to the gym daily. It could be a simple 30-minute walk around your neighbourhood, three times a week or a leisurely swim at the pool. Or how about simple and gentle chair exercises that can be done at home?
  • Drink waterThe American Heart Association reminds that keeping the body hydrated helps the heart more easily pump blood through the blood vessels to the muscles. And, it helps the muscles work efficiently.
  • Get more sleep – According to The Heart and Stroke Foundation, a healthy lifestyle includes getting between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. An insufficient amount of sleep can lead to issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and stress and anxiety, all of which can cause heart disease

Defibrillator wall mountWhile ‘dying’ and being brought back to life with an AED is not possible, using CPR and an AED minutes after someone goes into SCA will increase their chances for survival (and avoid the whole ‘dying’ part). There are many types of AEDs on the market – it is wise to make the investment… it could save a life. Maybe even yours!