Heart disease: why do children die of heart disease? Here are the key questions doctors answered – Times of India |

A 17-year-old student from class 12 in Gujarat has died of cardiac arrest, according to reports. She was walking up the stairs during recess when she began to feel uneasy and out of breath. After sweating profusely, she was unconscious, after which she was rushed to hospital where she was pronounced dead. In April 2023, a 13-year-old girl died of a heart attack. The incident happened in the village of Abbaipalem in the Maripeda mandal of Mahabubabad in Telangana. The deceased was a Grade 6 student. To understand this alarming incident and many others that have happened in the past, we spoke to subject matter experts.
In recent years, the distressing onset of children with heart attacks has caused concern among parents, health professionals and communities. Although rare, these events underscore the importance of understanding the factors that contribute to such incidents and taking the necessary precautions to protect the heart health of children,” said Dr. V. Rajasekhar, Interventional Cardiologist and Senior Consultant Electrophysiologist, Board Certified Specialist for TAVR (Transpercutaneous Aortic Valve Replacement), Yashoda Hospitals Hyderabad.
These conditions are congenital or acquired and parents should be aware of the symptoms so the condition is treated early, says Dr Shreya Dubey – Consultant – Neonatology and Pediatrics, CK Birla Gurugram Hospital.

What are the factors that put a child’s heart at risk?

Dr. V. Rajasekhar: While heart attacks are usually associated with older people, several factors can increase the risk in children. One of the main causes is congenital heart defects, which are structural abnormalities present at birth that affect heart function. These defects can clog blood flow or lead to irregular heartbeats, making children vulnerable to heart attacks. Other contributing factors include certain medical conditions such as Kawasaki disease, cardiomyopathies, and genetic disorders.

What should parents know about this?

Dr. V. Rajasekhar: Lifestyle choices also play a role in a child’s heart health. Childhood obesity, caused by poor diet and sedentary habits, is a major concern. This can lead to conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, all of which increase the risk of heart problems. Additionally, smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke, substance abuse, and lack of physical activity contribute to the risk of heart disease in children.

What are the symptoms parents should be aware of?

Dr Shreya Dubey: Heart disease in children can be congenital or acquired. Symptoms or signs of heart problems in children include bluish discoloration of the skin or bluish discoloration around the lips, difficulty feeding, shortness of breath, poor growth, pale skin, fatigue, joint pain, chest pain, and sometimes there is a history of fainting during physical exertion.
So these are the signs the parent should watch out for. If parents observe any of these signs in children, they can visit their pediatrician for an examination. If the pediatrician on auscultation or examination finds systemic signs, they will refer children to a cardiologist where an ECO will be performed, an ECG will be performed, and other specific cardiac tests may be performed. It is therefore necessary to diagnose the cardiac condition.

Health Tips Parents Should Know

Dr. V. Rajasekhar: Parents should be aware of the following crucial points:
1. Regular check-ups: Schedule routine check-ups with a pediatrician to monitor your child’s growth, development and heart health. Early detection of any underlying condition can help prevent heart attacks.
2. Healthy habits: Encourage a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, while limiting sugary snacks and drinks. Encourage regular physical activity and limit screen time to promote a healthy lifestyle.
3. Prevention and Awareness: Teach your child the importance of maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding smoking and substance abuse, and making positive lifestyle choices. Also, make sure they get age-appropriate vaccinations to protect against diseases that can affect heart health.
4. Family support: Promote an environment that promotes emotional well-being. Create open lines of communication, encourage stress management techniques, and offer support during difficult times.
By proactively addressing risk factors, prioritizing healthy habits, and remaining vigilant about child well-being, parents can significantly reduce the risk of heart attacks in their children. Remember that early intervention, regular medical care and a nurturing environment can make a significant difference in protecting the precious hearts of our little ones.

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