Thursday, May 21, 2009

Protect Your Kids' Hearts: Summer Activity Can Trigger Genetic Disorder, Say Results for Life, Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association

/PRNewswire / -- Before your kids are out the schoolroom door and off to the pool or baseball field this summer, take a few preventive steps to help protect their hearts.

Prevention may be as simple as making sure children eat nutritious meals, exercise, stay away from cigarettes and have check-ups.

Be aware that for some children who have an inherited heart disorder known as Long QT Syndrome, research shows that typical summer activities can trigger sudden cardiac arrest. Genetic tests can identify Long QT Syndrome and help physicians manage the condition.

The most common form of Long QT is triggered by strenuous exercise, especially swimming.

The condition often causes the tragic deaths of seemingly healthy young athletes who collapse on the playing field. More than 3,500 children and young adults die each year due to sudden cardiac arrest.

Fortunately, most deaths can be prevented if Long QT Syndrome is identified early -- often through a genetic test -- and treated. The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association and the American Clinical Laboratory Association's Results for Life Educational Campaign offer the following tips.

Test for Long QT Syndrome if your child has:

-- A family history of Long QT Syndrome or sudden, unexplained death of a
family member before age 40. If one person in your family is
identified with Long QT Syndrome, your entire family should be tested.
-- Fainting episodes during or just after physical activity.
-- Fainting as a result of excitement, distress or a sudden startle.
-- Consistent or unusual chest pain and/or shortness of breath during
exercise.


A physician will test for Long QT Syndrome by doing an electrocardiogram (ECG), often followed by a genetic test.

"The genetic test can be an important component to diagnosing Long QT Syndrome. In most cases, doctors can't tell for certain if a patient has the genetic disorder by just doing a clinical examination," says Alan Mertz, president of the American Clinical Laboratory Association and the Results for Life campaign. "Research has shown that a genetic test will identify additional individuals with possible Long QT Syndrome, compared to a clinical diagnosis alone."

Medications known as beta-blockers help prevent sudden cardiac arrest in most people. Pacemakers or automatic defibrillators are used in others.

Parents who live with children who are vulnerable to sudden cardiac arrest should:

-- Learn CPR and check that lifeguards or coaches know CPR.
-- Make sure an automatic external defibrillator (AED) is on-site at the
playing field, pool, or wherever children exercise.


Chris Chiames, Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association Executive Director, has Long QT Syndrome, as do his two daughters. The girls had a genetic test as toddlers. "As parents, we try to balance having fun with taking heart-health precautions," he says. "Our kids never swim alone. My wife or I always accompany our children to the swimming pool. We make sure the lifeguard is CPR trained and that an AED is on site."

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