Caring for Your Heart

February is American Heart Month!

A congenital heart defect (CHD) is the world’s most common birth defect, affecting 1.35 million infants every year worldwide. A congenital heart defect is not a disease but an abnormality of the heart. It occurs when the heart, or blood vessels near the heart, doesn’t develop normally before birth.

Here is a list of some common types of CHDs:

  1. Aortic Valve Stenosis (AVS)
  2. Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)
  3. Coarctation of the Aorta (CoA)
  4. Complete Atrioventricular canal defect (CAVC)
  5. D-Transposition of the Great Arteries
  6. Ebstein’s Anomaly
  7. Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome
  8. I-Transposition of the Great Arteries
  9. Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)
  10. Pulmonary Atresia
  11. Pulmonary Valve Stenosis
  12. Single Ventricle Defects
  13. Tetralogy of Fallot
  14. Tricuspid Atresia

Here are some signs and symptoms of CHDs:

  1. Blue-tinted nails or lips
  2. Fast or troubled breathing
  3. Tiredness when feeding
  4. Sleepiness

Care and Treatment for CHDs include:

  1. Surgical procedures
  2. Cardiac catheterizations
  3. Heart transplants
  4. Physical activity

Research has shown that routine, moderate, physical activity is safe and can be beneficial for most children and adults with a CHD. There are some exceptions, so it's very important to speak with your doctor about your specific situation before engaging in various physical activities. The safest type of exercise is aerobic exercise where your heart rate is increased and you are breathing heavily.

Here are some examples of aerobic exercise:

  1. Hiking
  2. Brisk walking
  3. Jogging
  4. Swimming
  5. Basketball
  6. Soccer
  7. Tennis
  8. Volleyball

TIP: While exercising, it is a good rule of thumb to make sure you can still carry on a conversation with someone so you are not overexerting yourself! If you can feel your heart beating while still speaking in full sentences, then you're likely maintaining a safe level of physical exertion.

Infants diagnosed with a congenital heart defect are living longer and healthier lives as the medical care and treatments have advanced. Many people who have a CHD live independent lives with little or no difficulty. Typically, individuals who have a CHD need routine checkups with a cardiologist and their primary care physician to stay as healthy as possible.

Regular physical activity, with approval from your physician, can help increase your quality of life whether or not you have a CHD. The goal for exercise is 150 minutes per week; however, some exercise is better than none! If this is too much, start with a goal and increase from there!

-Candace Majors, PTA