Editor's note: This popular story from the Daily Briefing's archives was republished on Oct. 21, 2019.
After news spread that a cardiologist had performed CPR on a subway in New York City, New York-Presbyterian Hospital seized the opportunity to educate people about CPR and cardiac events by launching a website and curating a playlist, Rebecca Hersher reports for NPR's "Shots."
In 2009, Sonia Tolani, a cardiologist from the hospital, saved a man's life after giving him CPR in the center of a subway train. The cardiologist started chest compressions—which she said must be maintained at a high-quality and fast rate. "You don't want to lose steam," Tolani said.
Saving a life ... to the tune of Another One Bites the Dust
After the incident drew media attention, New York-Presbyterian designed a website that explains when and how to perform CPR. It features an animated video that shows how to perform hands-only CPR based on recommendations from the American Heart Association.
The website also includes a Spotify playlist of songs from a variety of genres that span four decades intended to help people perform CPR at the appropriate rate. The songs have a tempo of 100 to 120 beats per minute—which is the ideal rate for chest compressions during CPR. Classic hits like Hanson's MMMbop, Michael Jackson's Man In The Mirror, Missy Elliott's Work It, and Cyndi Lauper's Girls Just Want To Have Fun made it onto the hospital's playlist—as well as a few thematically interesting choices, like Queen's Another One Bites the Dust.
"The whole point is just to have fun," said Alaina Paciulli, who works for the advertising company Seiden and helped curate the playlist, adding, "and if you can save somebody's life while humming Missy Elliott's Work It, then that's OK with us!"
Don't stop the beat—or the pressure
New York Presbyterian isn't planning on anyone running to Spotify and turning on the playlist before attempting CPR, Hersher writes. Rather, the playlist is designed to help people keep that crucial tempo fresh in their minds, so that if they are ever in a situation where CPR is needed, they'll be able to do it better.
As Hersher explains, CPR requires a good deal of force applied at a fairly quick tempo, and its efficacy lags when the beat slows down—a catchy song can help people maintain a beat they might otherwise lose in the middle of an emergency.
But you can't stop at the beat, Hersher writes: While a 2011 study showed that listening to music with a beat of at least 100 chest compressions per minute does in fact help people keep the appropriate rate, it doesn't necessarily mean a person will perform CPR better. Someone administering CPR also has to ensure that his or her compassions aren't too shallow, the study found (Hersher, "Shots," NPR, 4/3).
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