March 9, 2011

Ways to Protect Your Teen From Sudden Death

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 10:20 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

A heart with a white EKG peak superimposed & s...

Image via Wikipedia

The tragic deaths of 2 young athletes has brought media attention back to the problem of Cardiac Arrest.

A 16 year-old track athlete in Florida and a 17 year-old basketball player in Michigan both passed away within the last week after strenuous activity.  Most people are shocked when they hear about these types of unexpected deaths.  Parents, teachers and coaches have no reason to suspect that a young, athletic student could have a serious heart problem leading to sudden death.  Even though it affects only about 1 out of every 250,000 young athletes, even that one tragic loss is too much for the loved ones left behind.

What can be done to prevent sudden death in teenagers? Traditionally, screening for heart problems that can lead to sudden death begins with questions about family history and concerning symptoms.  Some heart problems are genetic so expect your doctor to be concerned if anyone in your family has ever died suddenly.  Some people also may not realize they are having symptoms of a heart condition until it is too late.

In addition to questions about family history and symptoms, having an EKG test can be a useful tool for detecting heart trouble.  An EKG is a painless test that takes just a few minutes to obtain.  Unfortunately, a recent study out of Israel has discouraged mandatory screening with an EKG.  As a parent and a cardiac care provider, I will still encourage the voluntary testing with an EKG.  I firmly believe that everyone should be proactive when it comes to their health (and your kid’s health too!).

The first step in being proactive is to fill out a screening questionnaire and bring it to your teen’s pediatrician.  For the most part, your pediatrician will only need to address questions marked as “Yes.”  Next you can request that your teen get an EKG (electrocardiogram).  Your pediatrician will read the results of the EKG immediately and recommend further cardiac evaluation if needed.

If you are unable to obtain an EKG from a doctor’s office, there are several programs which provide free EKGs for high school students.

  1. Chicago
  2. Maryland
  3. North Carolina
  4. Tampa

If you need to find one in your area, use a search engine (google, yahoo, bing, etc.) to search for “high school heart screening” in your state.  You may not find anything within your vicinity right away.  Consider asking your school administrators if they could host a heart screening event.

Another way you can protect your teen’s life is to make sure that all of the sporting arenas they play at have AED’s (Automatic External Defibrillators).  When a person collapses and the pads are placed on their chest, AED’s provide life-saving electric shocks while waiting for an ambulance.

October 24, 2010

New CPR Guidelines and Home CPR Kits from the American Heart Association

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Heart disease tips, Helpful Heart Links tagged , , , , , , , at 9:43 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

CPR training
Image via Wikipedia

Loved ones of patients with heart disease are frequently urged to learn CPR. 

Over the past year or so, studies have shown that the most vital part of CPR is doing chest compressions.  In fact, people who are untrained in CPR can do compressions only and still help save a life (see Know Your CPR!).  Chest compressions are a way of pushing on the chest to help circulate the blood in a heart that is not pumping effectively.   

Last week the American Heart Association changed the CPR guidelines to giving compressions first.  Previously, they had used the letters A-B-C to remind people of the steps, “Airway, Breathing and Circulation.”  Now they are saying to remember C-A-B which stands for Circulation (AKA compressions), Airway and Breathing.  The new guidelines stress the importance of giving chest compressions immediately on someone who is unresponsive.

CPR used to be taught only in special classes but now the American Heart Association offers home kits.  Even people with busy schedules can learn CPR with the new Home CPR Kits.  The kit comes with an inflatable mannequin, an instructional DVD and even flash cards.  The whole family can get together at home for a night of CPR now!  

December 23, 2009

Brittany Murphy Died of Heart Attack?

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , at 4:55 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

Be careful what you read!! Many people are being misled by the media when they read that this young 32-year-old actress died of a heart attack. For people who actually have heart disease, you should know a little bit more than the lay person off the street! For instance, most people think that a heart attack must be caused by plaque blockages in the arteries (also called Coronary Artery Disease). It is highly unlikely that the young actress had blockages in her arteries. The most likely scenario is that something else caused her heart to have an electrical problem called “cardiac arrest.”

Cardiac arrest is a completely different problem than what most people call a heart attack. A heart attack with blockages in the arteries CAN cause cardiac arrest and death. However, a person can have cardiac arrest without ever having blockages in their arteries. So, don’t be fooled by the media when you hear that a young, healthy person like Brittany Murphy died of a heart attack. Reportedly, the autopsy results are pending a drug screen so this may in fact be a similar case to Michael Jackson and NOT Tim Russert.