If you thought, heart problems are synonymous with only grown-ups then you are in for a shocker. If latest trends are followed, then children are also vulnerable to heart disease - one of the major killers worldwide.
When Gunjan's 10-year-old son had a minor cough, she took him to a doctor. Investigations, however, revealed a life-threatening disease; rheumatic heart problem.
"I couldn't even dream of this. I took my son to a doctor for a minor cough. But after a proper check up that the doctor insisted on, I got to know this scary thing. In no time, I got him treated and followed the advice of a heart specialist," says Gunjan.
Dr Rajnish Kapur, interventional cardiologist, Medanta Medicity, says, "There is no difference of risk between kids and adults of getting a heart disease. A kid can get a heart disease at a small age and also before coming into this world. But, with the kind of lifestyle we are leading and ignoring hygiene and other important things, these things are bound to happen. A lot of junk food also can lead to a major heart problem."
There are two basic types of heart diseases that children can get. One is congenital heart disease that is by birth and cannot be changed, but better tests and treatments are now available for children. Another one is rheumatic heart disease that is a secondary heart problem and involves damage to the entire heart.
Rheumatic heart disease is a complication of rheumatic fever and usually occurs after attacks of rheumatic fever.
Studies and doctors show that all these heart problems are due to the abnormal lifestyle we have opted for children, also due to children who smoke at an early age, diabetes, etc.
"Small infants of two-three years who face irritability, especially at the time of feeding and experience shortness of breath are targets of this kind of problem. Also, children who fail to gain weight or face irritability or weakness of some sort must get themselves checked as this is a serious problem that has to be taken care of before it affects the health of a child. Rheumatic heart disease can also occur if a child has a throat problem or his/her body turns blue," he says.
The age for heart diseases has really condensed and people are ignoring their health as far as eating habits and stressful life are concerned. "This is due to the amount of homework that is being given to kids which is followed by tuitions and then tuition homework as well," says Geeta Kumari, a social worker.
There are several tests that can reveal heart problems:
Ultrasound scan - Called an 'Echocardiogram. A handheld scanner is placed on the chest and stomach and gives a picture of the heart on a TV monitor. It is not painful but may be a bit uncomfortable for a child.
Medicines – For some heart problems, children can take medicine that can be stopped once the problem has improved. Sometimes medicines need to be taken for many years or even for lifetime.
Surgery – Heart surgery can provide a life-long cure for some heart conditions. In very rare cases where surgery, procedures, or medicine does not help, a child may need a heart transplant.
Children and teens can lower their risk of getting heart disease by changing or controlling the risk factors that can lead to heart disease later in life.
In most cases, lifestyle changes will help children control their high blood pressure.
Read more articles on Heart Health.