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Mended Little HeartGuide

Diagnosis 3 In The Exercise for Patients With Congenital Heart Disease In the past, children with CHD were often advised not to exercise to “be on the safe side,” but as more children with CHDs started surviving into adulthood, this approach changed. Preventing them from getting the health benefits of exercise, such as weight and blood pressure control, may end up doing more harm than good. Because we now expect most people with CHD to live into adulthood, we also have to consider how lack of exercise could negatively impact their cholesterol levels. In addition to its well-known cardiovascular benefits, exercise can also significantly improve a person’s sense of well-being. Preventing a child from participating in physical education classes, recreational sports or even competitive sports can have negative social and emotional effects. Many parents wonder whether it is safe to let a child with CHD exercise. They fear that their son or daughter will push his or her heart too hard or make it beat too fast. Children also tend to get out of breath during exercise, and it can be frightening to see your child panting or trying to catch his or her breath. Despite these worries, exercise can help children with CHD stay healthy. Your child’s cardiologist will be able to advise you on your child’s needs and limitations. Although you may not want a teenager with certain heart problems to play high school football, it might be okay to let them play some other competitive sport that does not involve bodily collisions. It’s unlikely that turning your teenager into a couch potato will be good for him or her in the long run. For certain people with CHD, the risk of some forms of exercise does outweigh the benefits. These individuals include, but are not limited to, those at high risk for dangerous heart rhythms (long QT syndrome, PLAY VIDEO Sports and Exercise hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, etc.); those at risk for tearing an enlarged or weakened blood vessel (Marfan’s syndrome, aortic aneurysms, etc.) or for bleeding (anticoagulation treatments); those with severe aortic stenosis, certain coronary artery problems, uncontrolled high blood pressure or vital medical hardware that might be damaged (pacemaker, defibrillator, etc.). Additionally, most children will need fairly significant exercise restrictions for several weeks after heart surgery but can eventually return to full activity. Anyone with CHD who has had symptoms associated with exercise should talk to their cardiologist. Overall, there are many more questions than answers when it comes to this topic, and the risk of exercise is different for every patient. That’s why it is important to have a discussion with your child’s cardiology team to determine what kinds of exercise are appropriate. Make sure the discussion focuses on what your child can and should do to stay healthy rather than what he or she cannot do. Focusing on the risks of exercise while ignoring the benefits may shortchange your child in the long run. For more information on exercise for CHD patients visit CardioSmart.org and Heart.org’s online resources. 1 General Information 2 Prenatal Hospital 4 Living With CHD 5 Forms 71


Mended Little HeartGuide
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