Youth Heart Screenings

It is a common thought that heart disease only occurs in adults.  Unfortunately there are thousands of seemingly healthy young people  who  suddenly and unexpectedly suffer fatal or severe consequences due to undetected heart conditions.

Puget Sound Heart Project advocates cardiac screenings in young people for the early detection of risk factors and conditions associated with Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA).  Most heart conditions that are a predisposition to SCA are not able to be detected on a normal physical examination or sports physical.  Many heart conditions can be detected with simple, noninvasive studies and tests, a comprehensive review of personal and family heart history,  proper medical assessment and follow-up of warning signs and symptoms.  As young people grow, their hearts change and repeat evaluations are often needed.

There are ongoing studies regarding the possibility of  Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) being related to Sudden Cardiac Arrest.  This is why a thorough review of family history is very important.

Common Heart Screening Tests:

Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG)

An ECG is a simple, painless, noninvasive test that measures and records the electrical activity of the heart.  With each heartbeat, the heart’s natural pacemaker sends an electrical impulse that travels along a nerve pathway and stimulates the heart muscles to contract, pumping blood through the heart’s chambers and into the blood vessels.   The heart’s activity is recorded in up and down patterns labeled consecutively as P waves, QRS complexes, T waves and U waves.  Irregularities in the patterns may indicate a problem with the heart.

Echocardiogram (ECHO) 

An ECHO uses high frequency sound waves to display the structure, function and blood flow of the heart on a monitor screen without the use of x-ray.  The echocardiogram can detect structural abnormalities of the heart and show valve shape, motion, narrowing or leaking.

The University of Washington will do cardiac screenings.  See the information about Sudden Cardiac Arrest in young people by Dr. Drezner in the link below:

Prevent Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Young Athletes

 Avoid High Energy Drinks

The American Heart Association reported at their March 2013 Scientific Conference, of alarming evidence  that Energy drinks may increase blood pressure and disturb heart rhythm.

Medical researchers have more to learn about energy drinks, but the primary cause of serious health problems appears to be the high concentrations of caffeine. Examples of findings related to cardiovascular effects are:

Heart palpitations. According to one study, 19 percent of college students who used energy drinks had experienced heart palpitations.

Increased heart rate and blood pressure. Energy drinks can increase heart rate and blood pressure, particularly in people who already have heart disease.

The risks associated with energy drinks are believed to be higher for people who have existing  medical conditions, such as heart defects or certain heart conditions. For example, people with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy should not have caffeine or other stimulants, as they may increase the risk of irregular heart rhythms, high blood pressure, and sudden death from cardiac arrest.