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Sunday, June 12, 2011

And Dr. Oz weighs in on HCM

Taming a killer: Sudden cardiac arrest in kids
by Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen - Jun. 12, 2011 12:00 AM

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You've seen the shocking news stories of young athletes collapsing and dying of sudden cardiac arrest: the 14-year-old Wisconsin runner, the Michigan high-school basketball whiz who had just sunk the winning shot, the star quarterback at a Texas high school. These no-warning cardiac collapses are the single largest cause of death among young competitive athletes.

The real story is, it doesn't have to be.

A string of positive research combined with news of kids who've survived sudden cardiac arrest means this troubling killer could soon be tamed. Meanwhile, we hope you parents and grandparents out there saw reports about the swift steps that can restart struggling young hearts - like the Minnesota dad who ran onto the soccer field when his 12-year-old son collapsed, started CPR, then used a portable defibrillator to kick-start the heart into beating normally. He saved his son's life.

It's not just an issue for kids who play sports. Although sudden cardiac arrest is five times more common among college athletes than once believed, and just one in 10 survives, what's most often behind SCA is an enlarged heart - specifically, a common inherited defect called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Although months of strenuous exercise will make any athlete's heart muscle bigger, that's normal and nothing to worry about - unless the kid also has HCM. The combo can block blood flow from the heart, which puts young athletes at much higher risk than non-athletes with HCM. Add a hard workout or dehydration, and the danger's even greater.

In summer, be alert for dehydration and heat exhaustion. Tell kids to follow the coach's advice and drink plenty of water. Dehydration is risky for anyone with an enlarged heart, because it interferes with the ticker's main pumping area, the left ventricle. Getting parched makes blood-flow problems worse, leading to fainting, shortness of breath or something way more serious.

What can you do?

- Raise $1,500 for your school. That's what it costs to buy and donate an automated external defibrillator. High schools that have an AED and people trained to use it save the lives of 64 percent of people with sudden heart problems.

- Spot trouble before it starts. Heart-screening tests could prevent 90 percent of SCA. Two hot-off-the-presses studies prove it. In one, 964 college athletes got physicals that included echocardiograms and electrocardiograms. They found seven students with serious heart conditions. Another study of 50,665 Chicago-area teens uncovered 1,096 kids with heart irregularities.

The tests aren't cheap. Screening all of America's athletes could top $2 billion a year. If your community offers free or low-cost screenings, take advantage of them!

More importantly, look for risk factors in your kids, and know what to do:

- Know the signals. Some key red flags: Fainting or seizures after physical activity; episodes of chest pain, racing heartbeats or unusual shortness of breath, fatigue or tiredness; dizziness during or after exercise; a family history of heart disease or an unexplained death after physical activity.

- Get some power behind you. About 15 states encourage or require AEDs in schools. A volunteer group of parents who've lost kids to SAC or whose own lives have been saved by a defibrillator are leading the charge. Find out more at

- Know what to do if a kid collapses. Act fast. If a kid's losing consciousness and gasping for breath, call 911 or get someone else to. Then immediately start CPR; survival odds drop 10 percent for every minute without it. Meanwhile, send someone for a defibrillator.

Don't hesitate.

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