Stayin’ Alive: CPR with a Disco Beat

Last month when we listed “12 Must-Have Albums for Your Vinyl Record Collection,” at least one person thought we should have included the Bee Gees’ Saturday Night Fever album. Yes, it’s true that the Bee Gees are one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time, their name is synonymous with the disco era, and their sound is one-of-a-kind.

But we think the Bee Gees’ greatest legacy is going to be their contribution to saving lives with their “Stayin’ Alive” song. That’s right – I said saving lives. You know how once you hear this catchy disco tune, you can’t get it out of your head? Well, there’s one good reason to remember this song – it really could save someone’s life!

Stayin’ Alive with CPR

As it turns out, the 1977 disco hit “Stayin’ Alive” has 103 beats per minute (BPM), which is within the recommended rate of 100-120 chest compressions per 60 seconds when performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). So if you do CPR while singing this familiar tune, you know you’ll be doing it at the right pace.

The Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” has been used for medical training for quite a few years now. In fact, a study by University of Illinois College of Medicine researchers found that ten doctors and five medical students who listened to “Stayin’ Alive” while practicing CPR not only maintained a perfect rhythm, they remembered the technique five weeks later.

“It’s a song everyone seems to know, whether they want to or not,” said Dr. David Matlock, the resident and researcher who led the study.

Since the Saturday Night Fever tune is so well-known, it’s also useful in teaching the general public to effectively perform the lifesaving maneuver. That’s because CPR isn’t just for EMTs, paramedics, and other medical professionals. It’s critical for everyone to know CPR for the following reasons:

  • Cardiac emergencies can occur at any time, in any place.
  • 80% of cardiac arrests occur at home.
  • On average, it takes approximately 8 minutes for 911 to respond to a call.
  • Once someone’s heart stops beating, brain death can occur in just 4 minutes.

Do the math and you’ll see there’s a problem. Cardiac arrest victims need someone to fill in until EMS arrives. This is where YOU can make a difference.

Hands-only CPR

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that if someone collapses from cardiac arrest, is unresponsive and not breathing, you should:

  1. Call 911.
  2. Push hard and fast on the center of the chest to the beat of “Stayin’ Alive.”

The AHA depicts this process in an educational music video featuring actor, comedian, and physician Ken Jeong.

You don’t have to worry about breathing into anyone’s mouth, because medical professionals have found that enough oxygen stays in the blood to keep the brain alive until EMS arrives. All you need to do is keep the blood circulating for 3-5 minutes until help arrives. (The only exception would be babies and small children who still need mouth-to-mouth.)

Hands-only CPR (without giving mouth-to-mouth) can double, or even triple, a person’s chance of surviving cardiac arrest outside the hospital, according to the AHA. Not only will you be able to save the life of a stranger, you may very well be able to save the life of a friend or family member.

A Matter of Life or Death

Many people say, “But I might do something wrong and make the person worse.” Worse than what? DEATH?

So don’t be afraid of pushing hard. For effective CPR, the AHA recommends making each compression at least 2 inches deep and ensuring full “recoil,” meaning the chest wall returns to its original position between each compression.

“Ribs bend with chest compressions and the ‘injury’ is usually very mild,” said Clifton Callaway, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh and chair of the AHA’s Emergency Cardiovascular Care Committee. “It definitely is not life-threatening,” even if you hear cracking or popping sounds while giving compressions.

The risk of delaying CPR or not doing CPR is far greater than the risk of a broken rib. So just keep pushing to the beat of “Stayin’ Alive” and don’t stop until EMS arrives.

Amazing how a classic disco tune can actually help save someone’s life! There are other songs that have at least 100 beats per minute, but “Stayin’ Alive” is the most memorable by far – and the Bee Gees even picked the perfect song title!

If you can sing or hum “Stayin’ Alive,” you can do CPR!

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