Medically Reviewed by David J. Steflik, MD
A pediatric cardiologist is a pediatrician who treats newborns, infants, children and young adults with heart conditions. Pediatric cardiologists go to medical school followed by three years of general pediatrics and three years of a cardiology fellowship.
“Believe it or not, congenital heart problems are one of the most common birth defects,” says McLeod Pediatric Cardiologist Dr. David Steflik. “Some estimates say that up to 1 in 100 babies has some sort of heart issue that they’re born with.”
“In non-clinical terms, common problems in children involve plumbing and electrical issues of the heart. In newborns, the most common issue would be a hole between the two main pumping chambers and is called a ventricular septal defect or VSD. In older infants and young adults, an electrical issue would be an arrhythmia, where the heart beats with an irregular or fast rhythm. Another problem seen in children is Kawasaki Disease, a generalized inflammation that can affect the blood vessels of the heart.
Worrisome symptoms in infants that you can see would be a blue color around the child’s lips or chest, accompanied by fast breathing. When a baby is breathing fast, sometimes it’s difficult for the infant to eat. Because the child is not eating, they fall off the growth curve or don’t gain adequate weight.
In older children and adolescents, we look for and think about exercise intolerance, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness and palpitations, which is a subjective feeling of a faster heart rate. All of these can signify cardiovascular problems.
HEALTHY LIVING TO AVOID PROBLEMS
“One of the best ways to avoid heart problems in children is to focus on a healthy diet and exercise. First, your diet should be rich in whole, unprocessed foods with an adequate balance of macronutrients. An easy, practical way to follow this suggestion is stick to shopping on the outside of the grocery store. Anything that’s processed and can stay on the shelf for weeks at a time is usually located on the center aisles. Whole, unprocessed foods – such as fresh fruits and vegetables — are generally found on the outer wall of the store.
On exercise, children should get at least 60 minutes of vigorous activity a day. They should get plenty of sleep and maintain a healthy weight. It’s very important to start these habits early in life, because the habits they develop early are very likely to persist through adulthood.
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
If you think your child is suffering from one of the problems mentioned here, ask your primary care physician or cardiologist for a referral.
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