Treat children with heart disease early, says expert

BANGALORE Sept. 26. Ahead of the World Heart Day on Sunday, I.B. Vijayalakshmi, Head of the Department of Paediatric Cardiology, Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiology, has advised parents to ensure that their children are free from heart disease.

Dr. Vijayalakshmi says that 80,000 children in the world die in their first year due to congenital heart diseases (CHDs). The ignorance of parents and the failure to detect the disease early and provide timely treatment are to blame for the deaths.

Parents can suspect a heart disease if the child turns blue at birth or later on after crying or playing, or if the tongue, lips, nails, and fingertips become blue after sucking milk. Infants with heart disease find it difficult to suck milk and start sweating, and they may even stop sucking. The baby may become breathless or has trouble in breathing, and there is in drawing of the lower part of the chest (chest retraction). CHD may also affect the child's mental and physical growth, she says.

The other symptoms are repeated respiratory tract infections (more than six times a year), physical abnormalities such as low set years, low hairline, deformity of ears, wide set eyes, and extra or fused fingers. Older children may complain of tiredness after running or playing.

In such cases, parents should get a heart scan — the ecocardiography (ECG) — and consult a paediatric cardiologist.

What are the causes of CHD? "Inbreeding" by marrying first cousins with heart disease, consuming sleeping pills, or tablets for fits, depression, and asthma during the first three months of pregnancy, diabetes in mothers, German measles or viral fever with rashes in the first three months of pregnancy, exposure to X-ray, repeated abortions, late motherhood with multiple pregnancies, and premature delivery cause CHD, Dr. Vijayalakshmi says.

Timely treatment can completely cure 65 per cent of the children and they can lead a normal life, she says.

Dr. Vijayalakshmi has urged people to suspect rheumatic heart disease if children complain of sore throat, and get tests done without delay. She expects parents to discourage sedentary life — long hours of watching TV and not playing — among children to avoid a heart attack among them.

Here are her 10 tips for a healthy heart among adults: Exercise — even a little of it is better than not doing it all, choose a better diet, watch your weight, stop smoking, avoid stress and relax, have your blood pressure checked, check for diabetes, control cholesterol, have an overall check-up once a year and look after your heart as "it is your greatest treasure."

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