Exercise for Healing Hearts

Parents of children with congenital or acquired heart conditions who have been cleared to exercise are often concerned about safety. And this concern is justified because strenuous physical activities, such as running and soccer, may not be the safest choices for a child with a heart condition.

However, “low-activity” physical exercis20130425_3047e may be part of the prescription, says Dr. Anthony Chang, medical director of the CHOC Children’s Heart Institute.

Exercise is a crucial component of protecting against obesity, and even children with heart conditions are not immune to this problem. Luckily, many less-strenuous activities deliver the health benefits without involving sudden increases in heart rate and blood pressure.

“Physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, and many children with heart conditions may exercise safely,” Dr. Chang says. “Additionally, exercise can be an important diagnostic tool to monitor how well the child is doing. If a child cannot exercise as much or starts showing symptoms, this may indicate the heart is not doing as well.”

Additionally, these less-intense exercises include several that the entire family may enjoy doing together. Several activities are often recommended for patients who have been cleared for exercise:

• Walking

• Swimming

• Yoga

• Golf

Exercise Caution

Every child’s heart is different. Pediatric cardiologists and pediatricians use several types of tests and assessments before clearing a patient for exercise, including an electrocardiogram (EKG), echocardiogram and, in children older than age 7, exercise stress testing.

Once a child is cleared for exercise, parental or adult supervision is highly recommended. Ideally, there should be someone there who is trained to perform CPR and can operate an automated external defibrillator (AED) should the need arise.

A child should immediately stop an activity if the following symptoms occur:

• Chest pain

• Dizziness

• Unusual fatigue

“It is always a good idea to have someone there who is trained to perform CPR and use an AED,” Dr. Chang says. “That’s not just for the child with the heart condition, but for everyone. No one can predict who will experience sudden cardiac arrest.”

Learn more about CHOC Children’s Heart Institute.

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CHOC Children’s Heart Institute, Center Provides Latest Tech Innovations

With exciting technology at every turn, The Bill Holmes Tower at CHOC Children’s is filled with the latest equipment and innovations – and the CHOC Heart Institute is no exception. Set to open in the new space next month, the Heart Institute and its Heart Center boasts advanced technology that will help physicians ensure successful patient outcomes.

Dr. Anthony C. Chang (on left) – the Heart Institute’s medical director who also leads a group of medical community members charged with exploring changing medical technology – talks more about the innovations inside the Heart Institute.

Q: What new equipment and technology will be found inside the Heart Institute?
A: We’ll have advanced imaging such as three-dimensional (3-D) real-time echocardiography, and magnetic resonance (MR) and computed tomography (CT) angiography with 3-D anatomic reconstruction.

One of our two cardiac catheterization labs will be a hybrid laboratory so that both diagnostic and interventional cases can occur. Also, we’ll have a cardiopulmonary stress testing suite, where we can perform stress tests and stress echocardiogram testing.

For the first time, these services will be available under one roof: It’s like a separate heart hospital.

Q: What are the advantages of a 3-D echocardiography?
A: An echocardiogram is an ultrasound-derived image, and with a regular echocardiogram, you see a two-dimensional picture on a screen. It doesn’t give you any depth – it’s just basically slices of images. A 3-D echocardiogram gives you depth and a more detailed picture of the heart’s anatomy. It’s like watching a 3-D movie: You get more depth and a more realistic picture. This is particularly important in children because their heart defects can be so complicated.

Q: What are the benefits of 3-D reconstruction in MR and CT angiography?
A: Angiography creates images of the heart’s blood vessels. MR angiography uses magnetic fields, and CT angiography incorporates contrast dye that is injected into a vein. Both techniques generate an image of the heart, but a 3-D image gives us a clearer and more detailed picture. Again, this is state-of-the-art imaging to look at heart defects in children.

Q: How is today’s technology improving the care and outcomes for young patients with heart conditions?
A: Technology leads to more precise diagnoses and better imaging.

Q: What advancements can we expect to see in the near future?
A: Innovation is leading toward equipment and techniques that create less invasive ways to assess and treat a patient’s heart.

Q: What features are you most excited about in the new Heart Institute?
A: Technology is very exciting, but we’re also working toward developing several other clinics within the institute, such as a heart failure clinic; a sports heart health clinic; and a clinic for overweight and obese children; and a cardiovascular genetics clinic. I would like the Heart Institute/Center to become a community resource for heart health.

For more information about the CHOC Children’s Heart Institute, please visit http://www.choc.org/heart/.

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