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article imageTexas schools screen for heart problems, with shocking results

By Nikki Weingartner     Jun 5, 2009 in Health
Cardiac problems are the number one killer of adults in the United States. However, many of these conditions begin in childhood but go undetected until collapse. One school district in Texas is addressing the problem and the results are surprising.
It is the number one killer in the United States with over 11 per cent of adults (see PDF of most recent stats) suffering from heart disease. But did you ever think about the instances of heart problems in children?
Houston Independent School District located in Houston, TX did just that.
In April of this year, HISD began screening middle school students after the board approved the Houston Early-Age Risk Testing and Screening program, or better known as the HEARTS program. The reason? To detect, identify and prevent heart problems at an early age that could cause sudden death by providing FREE cardiac physical exams, EKGs and 2-D echos as well as FREE follow-up care, including surgery if necessary for about 1,500 sixth-grade students in the district.
As reported by the American Heart Association, somewhere between one in every fifty to one in every one-hundred children have an undiagnosed heart problem and student athletes who die "suddenly" of CV disease do:
"so during sports training or competition, and a relationship has been drawn between intense physical activity and arrhythmia-based sudden death.” The American Heart Association also found that these deaths occur most commonly in high-intensity sports like basketball and football."
In the United States, American high school football is the most popular sport amongst student athletes.
Last August, a student athlete required defibrillator assistance to revive him after he collapsed on the football field during stretching exercises. A month later, a student at another Houston high school collapsed while playing basketball in PE, where school nurses used the external defibrillator to shock his heart back into rhythm and save his life.
The coaches, athletic trainers and nurses were trained in life-saving techniques that saved both young men's lives. However, training is only one step in prevention of fatalities, as underlying heart conditions are often unknown until a sudden collapse occurs. Still, last year alone there were seven reported incidents due to cardiac arrest while exercising, including two student deaths: 16-year-old Miles Staton from Minneapolis and 16-year-old Joseph Larracey of Massachusetts. This year, 17-year-old Michael Ramos from New Jersey died in PE while lifting weights although the report at the time did not reveal reason. There were also two female students who collapsed and died in Texas during their sport time for cardiac problems, as well as another student in the state who collapsed due to unknown cardiac problems a few days later during wrestling.
Legendary NBA great and Houston Rockets veteran player, Dikembe Mutumbo, joined the team in support of the screening program stating:
“We want our kids to be active and live longer,” said Mutumbo, “and heart disease is the number one killer. That’s why it is so important for you to take care of yourself, get active, get involved in physical activities.”
The Houston Rockets, Memorial Hermann Hospital and the University of Texas Medical School at Houston have donated money and equipment to help pay for the free pilot program.
At the May screening of about 100 sixth-grade students at one Houston area middle school, 10 students were found to have heart conditions requiring medical treatment, two of which were potentially fatal. There are currently four middle schools in the district that are providing the free screening program to all sixth grade students, with parental consent. The school district would like to offer free screenings to all of it's middle schools but funding of the costly program is an issue for the largest school district in the state that has over 45 middle schools.
The HEARTS program is separate from the required physical examinations used in the state for athletic participation.
More about Children, Heart problems, Fatalities
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