The heart is the body’s most important organ and so it is welcome news that we are doing more than ever to highlight the risks it faces. From television awareness ads to the slew of cookery shows that promote good eating, it seems that aspirations of maintaining a healthy heart have never been so strong. But when in most cases prevention is not an option, are the issues of heart problems in children being discussed enough?
From product adverts for decreasing cholesterol, to government infomercials aimed at raising awareness of how to react to heart attacks and strokes, it seems that much of what we see and hear in relation to heart problems is focused on prevention and response.
While it is no doubt a good thing that stars like Vinny Jones have attached themselves to these viral campaigns, the subject of heart conditions in children is arguably more delicate.
It might come as a shock to learn that congenital heart disease affects between four and nine babies in every 1,000 births, emphasising the importance of specialist paediatric cardiology units. In these cases, after avoiding risk factors like alcohol and drugs during pregnancy, prevention is hardly part of the conversation at all. However, that’s not to say that once congenital defects have been diagnosed they cannot be coped with.
Most heart problems in babies and children are due to problems in the way the heart was put together. With treatment and surgery from specialists, many of these conditions can often be managed well. Ventricular septal defects, often known as ‘hole in the heart’ and conditions like tachycardia, when the heart beats faster than it should, will require treatment but today around 85% of children born with congenital heart diseases will survive into adulthood.
With the use of helpful support networks and by fostering a culture of increased understanding, children with heart problems can still enjoy their childhood. Physical activities and lifestyles might have to be tailored, but with help and awareness many achieve an excellent quality of life.
Nobody wants their child to feel different and as they grow up and it often helps to meet others who have similar experiences. Accepting a condition is part of taking control of it and partly due to prolonged treatment and care, the idea of a sufferer taking control of their body becomes even more salient.
Thanks to the number of heart charities that are out there, help and guidance is available to both parents and sufferers of heart defects. While prevention adverts and advice do not lend themselves to the conditions commonly attached to paediatric cardiology, a heightened knowledge of both coping and caring for sufferers does.