Talking with Your Child's Pediatrician about Heart Health

Technician Brian Volz, RDCS shows
Pediatric Cardiologist Michelle Grenier, MD results of Echo Cardiogram of
High School Athlete on Toshiba's New Aplio 500 CV Ultrasound System
Maybe you've heard about rare instances of sudden cardiac arrest in young people.  SCA kills around 2,000 young US patients every year, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  And the American Academy of Pediatrics notes incidents may be on the rise.  So, doctors are talking about ways to better diagnose and prevent this from happening.  They don't necessarily say this rare condition should prevent your family from getting involved in physical fitness.  But, how can you and your child's doctor address this rare possibility when you go in for a sports physical?

Technician Conducts an Echo Cardiogram Screening after an EKG
FlourSackMama.com asked cardiologist Dr. Santosh Menon of the Ohio Heart and Vascular Center for some tips that families can use to have a conversation with their pediatrician about heart health.  Dr. Menon said good communication starts by filling out the sports physical questionnaire as accurately as possible.  "Make sure that you be honest about what’s going on with your child, be forthright and go into detail about family history of heart disease and medications the child is taking. Bring that to the attention of the physician and ask 'is my child at risk if they exercise?' and  always get a history and physical examination by your physician before you start a physical activity for your child."
Dr. Santosh Menon, MD, FACC
Director, Carl and Edyth Lindner Heart Failure Treatment
Center at The Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio

We asked the doctor if parents should go as far as asking for diagnostic tests for heart health.  He answered, "If you’re concerned enough, if you have a family history of heart disease, especially sudden death, or if you have a heart murmur as a parent, or your parents have it, or if your child has any medication that may affect the heart, in terms of the EKG -- ask for the EKG."

While EKGs are more common in some other developed countries, US doctors don't use them as often for standard physicals.  There are concerns about cost, time and false positives in heart screenings.  Dr. Menon is the primary investigator in a study of elite athletes' heart health that includes additional diagnostic testing beyond EKG and is seeking ways of better screening for risk of sudden cardiac arrest.

“Be aware, if you think your child is at risk or has had some symptoms, such as passing out when they exercise heavily or heart racing out of control or family history of heart disease, get your kid checked out, very important,” stressed the heart specialist.

Menon reminds parents that if your child is not an elite athlete but has conditions such as morbid obesity and/or diabetes, you'll want to ask the physician to examine your child carefully because of those risk factors.   He says anyone should be checked out by a physician before starting a rigorous exercise program.

You can watch our entire interview with Dr. Menon at the site of the recent US Rowing Youth National Championships where he and his colleagues were conducting heart health research.


Tomorrow:  more photos from the US Rowing Championships!

*This blog is not intended to provide medical or professional advice of any kind.  Consult your medical professional with questions about your own family's health and wellness, including heart disease risk, prevention and detection.

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