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Congenital heart disease is a term used to describe heart conditions in infants, children, and adults that are caused by abnormalities in prenatal heart development (congenital heart defects). Congenital heart disease causes the most deaths within the first year of life compared to any other birth defect, and affects approximately 500,000 American adults.
Among the most common of congenital heart diseases are:
The following are risk factors for congenital heart disease:
Tests for congenital heart diseases can occur at varying stages of life.
Pre-natal tests for congenital heart disease include:
Infancy, childhood, and adulthood diagnostic tests include:
Many congenital heart diseases do not show signs or symptoms, and are only detected upon the first major event (i.e. heart attack, heart failure). However, certain severe congenital heart diseases can present symptoms upon birth. These symptoms include:
The mortality rate for congenital heart disease depends largely on the type of defect. Many infants born with congenital heart disease live healthy lives with minimal restrictions. Most will need to monitor their hearts during times of sickness due to a susceptibility to infection.
There is not much you can do about having a congenital heart disease, though there are things you can do to improve your overall heart health and reduce your risk of heart attack/failure:
Screening for congenital heart disease begins in utero, with ultrasound imaging of the fetal heart. Infants, toddlers, and children, are then monitored for signs of heart irregularities by their pediatricians at their annual physicals.
Promoting overall heart health will help to lower your risk of heart defect complications such as heart attack and heart failure. The following are tips for a heart healthy lifestyle:
Most congenital heart diseases cannot be cured with medications, though medications can help manage symptoms, treat complications, and prevent future damaging cardiac events. These include:
Side effects of antiarrhythmics include:
Side effects of anticoagulants and antiplatelet medications include:
Because anticoagulants lengthened the time required to form a blood clot, patients taking anticoagulants are at a higher risk for excessive bleeding and hemorrhaging. Speak to your doctor about the risks and benefits of taking anticoagulants. It is especially important to take into consideration this potentially life threatening side effect.
Side effects of diuretics include:
Side effects of direct-acting vasodilators include:
In many cases, surgery may be necessary to cure a congenital disease. Surgeries vary in levels of complication and can be performed at any age. Many infants with serious congenital heart defects require immediate operation.
The following list of heart health supplements is offered by the University of Maryland Medical Center that may help lower the overall risk of heart disease for individuals with congenital heart defects. Always check with your cardiologist or primary doctor before adding supplements to your regimen for treating and preventing heart failure. Many people with heart conditions take multiple medications, including blood-thinning medications, blood pressure medications, and others. The supplements below may interact with these (and other medications) and may not be right for people with certain medical conditions.
Stress reduction practices. Since stress is associated with heart disease, it’s prudent to try techniques to help reduce it. The following methods have been shown to reduce stress in some people:
Call 911 if you are experiencing the symptoms of a HEART ATTACK which include:
You should not hesitate to call 911 if you are experiencing any of these symptoms that come on suddenly. You could be having a STROKE.
You will probably have different questions to ask your doctor depending on your heart condition. Be open about all your concerns. If you’re having difficulty focusing, bring along a friend or family member. Below you’ll find general questions you might want to ask your doctor about heart disease as suggested by the American Heart Association.
QUESTIONS ABOUT MEDICATION
QUESTIONS ABOUT DIET
QUESTIONS ABOUT EXERCISE
How to Stay Relevant While Aging
Extreme Exercise and Heart Health
Learning from Others Is a Gift We All Owe Ourselves
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