Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is a leading cause of death in the U.S., affecting more than 350,000 people of all ages outside hospital locations every day.

Unfortunately, only one-third of SCA victims receive CPR from bystanders and fewer than five percent of victims are treated with automated external defibrillators (AEDs) before EMS arrives at the scene. But for every minute that passes without CPR and defibrillation, the chances of survival decrease by 7-10%. As a result, only 10% of victims survive. Yet survival rates could triple if more people knew what to do when SCA strikes. In fact, tens of thousands of additional lives could be saved each year if bystanders acted quickly.

Why don’t more people know and use these fundamental lifesaving skills? Seven common myths may be barriers to bystander action.

Myth No. 1: SCA is rare. 

Fact: The number of people who die from SCA each day is equivalent to the number who would die if two jet planes crashed every single day killing nearly everyone on board.

Myth: No. 2: SCA is the same as a heart attack.

Fact: When people have heart attacks, they are awake and their hearts are beating. When people have SCA, they are not awake and their hearts are not beating. 

Myth No. 3: SCA only happens to the elderly.

Fact: SCA happens to people of all ages, including more than 7,000 youth under the age of 18 each year.

Myth No. 4: SCA only happens to people with a history of heart problems.

Fact: SCA is often the first indication of a heart problem.

Myth No. 5: Victims are better off waiting for professional help to arrive.

Fact: Immediate bystander intervention can mean the difference between life and death.

Myth No. 6: Only trained personnel are allowed to use AEDs.

Fact: AEDs can be used effectively by anyone who can follow visual and voice prompts.

Myth No. 7: AEDs can hurt people by shocking them inappropriately.

Fact: AEDs are safe and effective and will not shock the heart unless shocks are needed to restore a healthy heartbeat.

Huffington Post blog by Mary Newman, President and CEO, Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation