Today’s Health Watch: 10-year-old UAE-based Pinoy with rare heart defect to undergo operation in India

A 10-year-old Filipino boy with a rare congenital heart defect is heading for India to undergo an operation, after a foundation offered to sponsor the procedure. Gil Merced and his parents will travel to Kochi for the operation, according to a report on UAE news site Khaleej Times on Sunday. READ MORE


10 Steps to Protect Against Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

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By Dr. Robert Tozzi

Published February 11, 2013

As if it were yesterday, I recall the death of 18-year-old Ben Breedlove, who suffered from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), an ailment in which I specialize as a pediatric cardiologist.

I have seen it rob too many young people unnecessarily of a long and fulfilling life.

Here are 10 steps to protect your children, family members and anyone you love against the ravages of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy:

1. Remember that statistically if one member of your family has been diagnosed with HCM, then one-half of your family members are at risk for developing this disease. Evaluation of first-degree relatives on a regular, repetitive basis can go a long way towards correct diagnosis and effective treatment. It is imperative to extend this medical information to as many relatives as possible. Try to make the effort to contact others, even if you are estranged from them. Remember to breed love.

2. Always remember that hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a sneaky disease: It is many times missed or misdiagnosed. Common diseases that are confused with HCM are asthma, mitral valve prolapse, anxiety, coronary artery disease and an athletic heart.

3. Be aware of symptoms that require prompt medical attention:
• Chest pain with exercise or simple activities such as walking.
• Passing out is a very important symptom that requires prompt medical attention.
• Shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and extreme tiredness are other symptoms of HCM.

4. Avoid circumstances that increase your risk:
• Avoid hot weather and dehydration.
• Be aware of the need for vigorous fluid resuscitation during infections or gastroenteritis or exercise.
• Avoid burst of activity.
• Avoid isometric activity.

5. With hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in humans, the lining of the blood vessels in the heart tends to be affected. Unfortunately, this is not just limited to the heart, but also involves the blood vessels networked to other organs throughout the body:
• Foods that improve the lining of your blood vessel include nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, fruits and vegetables.
• Prolonged periods of walking help revitalize the lining of your blood vessels.
• Foods that decrease the function of the lining of blood vessels include sugary drinks (soda), high salt, high fat, high sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and even high protein. Life is about balance and a balanced diet.

6. Beware of diseases or circumstances that can worsen hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or cause it to progress faster:
• Sleep apnea, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, rapid weight gain and hypercholesterolemia.
• Steroids, including drugs like prednisone, anabolic steroids, and testosterone can aggravate the condition. The use of growth hormones or supplements that increase growth hormone or testosterone levels may also accelerate HCM.

7. Avoid drugs that can increase your risk of having a bad event:
• Avoid stimulants and decongestants.
• Avoid alcohol consumption as its diuretic effect can lead to decreased blood volume.
• If you are on a blood-thinner (e.g., Coumadin), remember to have your blood checked monthly.

• For any abrupt new onset of neurologic symptoms, such as muscle weakness, severe headache, or change in vision, seek prompt, urgent medical attention.

8. Once diagnosed with HCM, you are restricted from competitive sports and extremes of exercise, such as avoiding heavy lifting.

9. If you are on a beta blocker for HCM, it is imperative that it is taken daily. Missing a dose results in a rebound effect that can make your heart rate increase and put you at an increased risk.

10. Enjoy life, keep active and eat healthy. Most people with HCM have a normal life expectancy.

Dr. Robert J. Tozzi is Chief of Pediatric Cardiology and the Founding Medical Director of The Gregory M. Hirsch Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center at the Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. He is the co-author of several papers published in refereed research journals, and he has lectured extensively in his field at numerous professional conferences. To learn more, visit his website at
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Healthy Choices for Life Begin at HackensackUMC Children’s Hospital

Everyone knows that life is all about making choices. We try to teach our children to make the right choices in life … HackensackUMC Children’s Hospital –

Healthy habits learned in childhood lead to a happier, healthier life in adulthood.
At HackensackUMC’s Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital,
we help families build smart strategies for raising healthier kids.
Our assistance begins before birth and extends
through the adolescent years to young adulthood,
with multi-faceted programs that help kids avoid the wrong health choices
and arrive at the healthiest possible outcomes for life.

  • We screen for dangerous levels of cholesterol beginning in childhood:

High cholesterol in children is related to the development of heart disease in the adult. Early intervention is needed for hypercholesterolemia and poor health habits in children.

  • We educate families about better diet choices:

Typical initial management for abnormal serum cholesterol includes education about healthy diet and exercise. Healthy-diet education is best handled by a dietitian with the entire family involved. Examples of healthy diet include the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet.

  • We help kids and families avoid bad choices in what they consume:

We promote the avoidance of certain commercially available supplements and energy-boosting products. When energy drinks are mixed with other medications or nutritional supplements, increased toxicity occurs. Combining these drinks with medications for ADHD, asthma or heart disease may be lethal.

  • We actively test for potential hidden cardiac problems and other potentially debilitating conditions:

One of the most common causes of sudden cardiac death in children is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). HCM is a genetic disease in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick, making it harder to pump blood throughout the body. Most people have few, if any, symptoms of this disease. Some people experience shortness of breath when exercising, chest pain, fainting, dizziness, fatigue, or abnormal heart rhythms. Early detection and treatment saves lives.

  • We help establish the right types of exercise for given age groups:

Parents must increase the activity level of children and reduce TV and computer time. The recommended activity level for 5 years and older is one hour of moderate to vigorous exercise per day. Do not forget the best exercise: Walking.

  • We analyze for allergens and educate families about toxins in their environment.