Today: Feb 26, 2024

Fighting for heart health

Chardoneé Wright, Staff Writer-

Reggie Garrett. Kimberly Gillary. Joshua Ellison. 

These are the names of student- athletes who, without warning, dropped dead.

Yes dead. 

Ever wonder why and how a perfectly fit athletic teenager can drop dead without warning? 

How someone so young can have a heart attack? Drop dead in the middle of a football field or on the basketball court?

According to the University of Texas Health-Science Center at Houston, the condition is called sudden cardiac death. It occurs when the heart stops beating.

Heart rhythm disturbances and structural heart abnormalities are the common causes in sudden teen deaths. A heart defect called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy causes sudden cardiac death.

The heart muscle of someone with the condition abnormally thickens. This makes it harder for blood to flow and causes abnormal heart rhythms. 

A study done by the American Heart Association looked at 1,886 athletes between the ages of 18 and 39 in the United States. 

These athletes either died or survived sudden cardiac arrest between 1989 and 2006.

Fifty-six percent of the athletes suffered from cardiac arrest.

A third of those athletes’ conditions were contributed to cardiomyopathy.

Grant Fowler, Md and professor and vice chair at the Department of Family Practice and Community Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston ,said in an article that any heart problems and warning signs should not be ignored.

“Typically the athletes have had symptoms as a warning, but they may have ignored it or assumed that they have just overdone it, over-exerted themselves, or become too dehydrated,” said Fowler.

Athletes, do not ignore the symptoms. Get your heart screened regularly, even if you feel fine.

You are never too young to start taking care of your heart. 

Also according to UTHealth the warning signs of heart problems are difficulty breathing and dizziness with exercise, fainting and chest pain.

Typically before a season starts, athletes get a routine screening.

Fowler adds that if any athlete answers yes to any one of these three questions, further examination must take place.

“Have they ever passed out during exercise, have they ever had palpitations or felt like they were going to faint while exercising, or is there a family member who has ever died suddenly,” said Fowler. 

If additional examinations are needed, the student may need additional diagnostic testing by a pediatric cardiologist. 

A test called electrocardiogram (ECG) can uncover signs of irregular and dangerous heart rhythms. 

According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research, 15 high school athletes die each year due to heart-related problems.

So often many teens think that because they feel fine, or have no outside, noticeable symptoms about anything, that everything is okay.

No matter how “good” you may feel, regular heart screenings whether you are an athlete or not are very important.

A heart attack can happen in a young person, just as much as an older person.

The defect can be passed down in your family, and you may not have a clue. 

Some helpful tips given to prevent heart disease and staying healthy are not to smoke or use tobacco, exercising for at least 30 minutes for a couple of days in the week, and keeping a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

Your face may turn up when you think about having to substitute fruits and vegetables in your regular diet. 

Yet, the fact is , it’s not that bad.

You can start off eating small portions a week, and gradually increase your intake.

You have to be willing to want better for your heart and overall health in order to want to eat right.

Even though heart disease is the number one killer in the United States, it can be preventable if not only student-athletes, but everyone are educated about the risk factors, family history, and preventive measures that need to take place in order to stop it.

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