Heart disease can affect anyone even though we usually associate it with older adults. But, young people are at risk, as well.
Matt Breen asked, "Can young people have a heart condition?" Dr. Ramin Artang, Mercy Cardiology says, "The answer is yes. The young people are too young to have degenerative heart disease like arterial blockage and degenerative valve disease. But there are several heart conditions than occur in young people and some of them can be serious and dangerous."
Matt Breen asked, "What conditions are we talking about?" Dr. Ramin Artang, Mercy Cardiology says, "The most common heart condition for young people is bicuspid aortic valve, which is about structural of this particular valve being different from the usual as shown here in this image. This causes a murmur that is uncommon to hear when you examine a young persons heart. It is not a dangerous condition but causes the valve to age quicker and have issues with either being thick and tight or leaky 20-30 years earlier than expected. Some of these kids end up having a valve replacement surgery in their 30s, 40s or 50s."
Matt Breen asked, "What about more dangerous conditions?" Dr. Ramin Artang, Mercy Cardiology says, "Well you often wonder about the athletes, football, basketball or bicyclist who die suddenly during a game. These are very rare conditions. One of them is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy which means that the muscle of the heart is significantly 3-4 times thicker than one would expect. This condition obstructs the outflow of blood and can cause passing out, chest pain and in rare cases sudden death during high intensity physical activity."
Matt Breen asked, "What else can go wrong?" Dr. Ramin Artang, Mercy Cardiology says, "Another condition is related to the coronary arteries. Usually the artery the supplies the from part of the heart comes out from the front of aorta, and the one that supplies the back wall of the heart come out from the side like shown in this picture. What can happen in very rare cases is that artery to the front of the heart comes from the side or the back of aorta and vice versa. So now the artery needs to travel among other larger vessels to get to the heart muscle and certain variations of this condition that is called coronary anomaly are associated with chest pain and sudden death during high intensity physical activity."
Matt Breen asked, "What about rhythm disorders?" Dr. Ramin Artang, Mercy Cardiology says, "This is even more rare and there are some harmless and some serious rhythm disorders that also can occur among young people."
Matt Breen asked, "Do we need to screen all the kids in the school for these conditions?" Dr. Ramin Artang, Mercy Cardiology says, "There is a constant debate in the cardiology community about what to do about this. The fact of the matter is the dangerous heart conditions are extremely rare and you need to screen tens of thousands of people in order to capture one. In a system with limited resources this does not seem to be the most efficient use of funds. But once the person is having symptoms of chest pain, shortness of breath or passes out during physical activity then that person needs to get examined thoroughly. For super athlete level at the college and professional level they all go through intensive medical examination."
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