In theory, cardiopulmonary resuscitation — the heart-restarting technique better known as CPR — is simple: Just push down on a person’s chest in the the right way, in the right place, and at the right speed, and you’ve done what you need to do.
In practice, though, CPR is a little trickier than the directions make it out to be (or a lot trickier — according to one meta-analysis from 2009, the survival rate for people who receive bystander CPR is somewhere between 6 and 14 percent). The first two criteria can be fairly easy to eyeball — push down about two inches in the center of the chest — but the last one, the right speed, is tougher to estimate without any guidance. The ideal rate is around 100 beats per minute; when you’ve just seen a stranger collapse on the street, though, odds are decent that you’re going to be a little too frazzled to count out an accurate rhythm.
The good news is: You don’t necessarily have to, as long as someone at the scene has music on their phone. As Katherine Ellen Foley recently wrote over at Quartz, the BeeGees’ “Staying Alive” and Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” have both long been held up as songs whose beats match perfectly with CPR (“and [have] obvious connotations to the task at hand,” she noted). And if, for some reason, you want a little more variety, New York Presbyterian has you covered. Earlier this week, the hospital released a 40-song playlist titled “Songs to do CPR to,” with tunes ranging from Simon and Garfunkel’s “Cecilia” to Hanson’s “MMMBop.” You can check it out here:
It’s not really clear how the hospital expects this to play out logistically — if you see someone who needs CPR, you’re probably not going to take the time to scroll through Spotify before you spring into action. (And if you’re frantically compressing someone’s chest as they lay on the ground, passersby might find your scream-requests of “someone play ‘MMMBop!’” a little too weird to accommodate). Still, it never hurts to brush up on your first-aid skills; get the right music going in the background while you practice, and the rhythm of CPR might come to you more naturally if you ever need to use it in real life.
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