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Heart Healthy Tips for February
From Children's Healthcare of Atlanta

Most people associate February with hearts. Chocolate hearts, paper hearts…and healthy hearts. February is National Heart Month, a time for parents to think about not only their own heart health, but also their child’s.

Little Known Facts About Congenital Heart Disease:

· It is the most common birth defect.

· It affects 1 in 100 newborns.

· It is the number one cause of death from birth defects during infancy.

· The first symptom of a heart defect can also be the last.

The number of children born with a congenital heart defect each year – 40,000 – would fill Chicago’s Wrigley Field to maximum capacity…with standing room only! With these staggering statistics, it’s important to know your family’s health history to help determine whether or not your child may be at risk for congenital heart disease.

A “Silent Killer”

One example of a heart defect that affects one of every 5,000 people, typically children and young adults, is Long QT Syndrome (LQTS). LQTS is a disorder of the electrical system of the heart, which can be genetic or acquired. Electrical defects predispose an affected person to a very fast heart rhythm. The rhythm is too fast for the heart to beat effectively, so the blood flow to the brain decreases. This causes the blood pressure to fall rapidly, causing a sudden loss of consciousness – even death.

Signs and symptoms of LQTS include:

· Loss of consciousness (fainting) during or immediately after exercise

· Loss of consciousness when startled

· Consistent or unusual chest pain and/or shortness of breath during exercise

· Family members with sudden, unexplained death

· Family members with known diagnosis of LQTS

“In too many cases, the first symptom of LQTS can often be the last. We want families to be aware of this disorder and to examine family histories to see if they are at risk,” said Robert Campbell, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of Sibley Heart Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Approximately 4,000 children and young adults die from LQTS every year. Increasing awareness of this often genetic disease can help save many lives. Fortunately, most of these deaths are preventable if the condition is recognized and treated.

What Should a Parent Do If a Child Exhibits Symptoms of LQTS?

Parents should ask their pediatrician, and tell the doctor about their child’s symptoms and their family history. The pediatrician may refer the family to a pediatric cardiologist for further evaluation.

Who Should Be Screened?

· Any young person with unexplained loss of consciousness, seizure or cardiac arrest, especially if exercise- or emotion-related

· Family members who have experienced an unexplained sudden death of a young person

· Blood relatives of patients with known LQTS

· Asymptomatic children and adults with a family history of LQTS

Where Can I Get More Information About Long QT Syndrome?

For information on Long QT Syndrome or to speak to a pediatric cardiologist, contact Sibley Heart Center Cardiology of Children’s at 404-256-2593 or 800-542-2233 or the Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndromes (SADS) Foundation at 800-786-7723 or www.sads.org.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, one of the leading pediatric healthcare systems in the country, is a not-for-profit organization that benefits from the generous philanthropic and volunteer support of our community. With 430 licensed beds in two hospitals and more than 450,000 annual patient visits, Children’s is nationally recognized for excellence in cardiac, cancer, transplant, orthopaedic and neonatal care, as well as in many other pediatric specialties. Child magazine ranks Children’s as one of the top 10 children’s hospitals nationwide and Children’s is among U.S.News & World Report’s top pediatric hospitals. To learn more about Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, visit www.choa.org or call 404-250-KIDS.

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