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Women Are Less Likely to Get CPR, and It's Because They Have Boobs

By Leah Groth ; Updated February 16, 2018

A new study suggests that women suffering cardiac arrest in a non-hospital setting are less likely than men to receive CPR — making them more likely to die as a result. The reason why? They have boobs.

Yes, really. Those same mammary glands that can sustain a human life for several years also scare people out of performing CPR.

“It can be kind of daunting thinking about pushing hard and fast on the center of a woman’s chest, and some people may fear they are hurting her,” Audrey Blewer, a University of Pennsylvania researcher who led the study, tells the Associated Press.

Published in Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the study looked at 20,000 cases around the country of people who suffered cardiac arrest in a public place. It was the first to examine gender differences when it comes to receiving cardiac help from the general public versus professionals.

They found that just 39 percent of women were given cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), compared to 45 percent of men. This translates to men having a 23 percent greater chance of survival than women. Seems unfair.

In addition to the fear of hurting a woman, another possible reason public rescuers may be hesitant to perform CPR on a woman is because of invasiveness: They are concerned about taking off a woman’s clothes or touching her breasts.

After all, CPR classes are taught using male mannequins, so many people are simply unfamiliar with how to do chest compressions on a woman — and they are also unsure as to whether her clothing or bra need to be removed.

Dr. Tania Dempsey, a New York-based physician uninvolved in the study, tells LIVESTRONG.COM, “It is actually unnecessary to remove clothing. CPR is done the same way on men and women.”

The final problem is that most people just don’t have enough CPR training. A 2016 study found that fewer than one in five American adults have current training in CPR. And according to the American Heart Association, a shocking 90 percent of people who suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests die. If the technique is performed in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, a person’s chance of survival can double or even triple. “The only way to change this is through education,” Dempsey adds.

Dempsey hopes this study will raise awareness of the importance of CPR training and possibly even encourage classes to use mannequins with breasts. “Training people in CPR classes with female mannequins, in addition to male ones, is another important step that needs to be made,” she says.

Here is a step-by-step guide to performing CPR. If you haven’t taken a CPR class yet, get on it ASAP. You can even take one online. For more information on how to register or where to find a class, visit the Red Cross website here.

What Do YOU Think?

Are you surprised by the findings of this study? Do you have CPR training? How can we make sure more people are properly trained?

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