In February, Focus is on Heart Health in Children and Youth

Contact: Angela Minicuci (517) 241-2112


LANSING - February is American Heart Month; a time to acknowledge and support Michigan families coping with heart disease. During this month, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) is recognizing two very important populations in Michigan: our newborns and our youth. Governor Rick Snyder has proclaimed Feb. 4, 2013 as Sudden Cardiac Death of the Young (SCDY) Awareness Day, and Feb. 7-14 as Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) Awareness Week. Together, these two critical heart observances remind us to take a moment to think about and support the families we know who have a child with a CHD or who have lost a loved one to SCDY.

"We all should know how to respond when someone goes into cardiac arrest, as unfortunately, that can and does happen with our youth," said James K. Haveman, Director of the MDCH. "Additionally, congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect, so most of us know a family who has been affected by a CHD. Knowing how to respond is critical to saving their lives."

CHDs affect one out of every 100 newborns and each year in Michigan, more than 1,700 babies are born with a CHD. A CHD is caused when the heart or its surrounding vessels do not develop normally during pregnancy. There are many kinds of CHDs, and the underlying cause is not always known. CHDs also range from mild to severe but today, more newborns are surviving because of early detection and treatment. SCDY is when a young, apparently healthy person dies suddenly from a cardiac arrest. In Michigan, SCDY claims the lives of more than 300 children and young adults under age 40 each year.

SCDY may be caused by inherited conditions that affect the heart's structure or how it beats. Often the first apparent sign that a young person has a condition that causes cardiac arrest is the arrest itself. Evaluating heart health and knowing personal and family history is the best way to identify those at risk and to prevent sudden cardiac death.

"I am happy to hear that the Governor is making this issue a priority. Sudden Cardiac Death in Youth is a tragedy and a serious public health issue. By raising awareness, and with appropriate screening, we can potentially identify these young people and save their lives. AED (Automated External Defibrillator) training and increased presence and availability can improve survival rates when a cardiac arrest occurs," said Representative Gail Haines, Chair of the House Healthy Policy Committee. "I am introducing legislation which addresses the issue of student athletes who exhibit abnormal cardiac symptoms during an athletic activity. This will be a law of prevention, born out of painful and unnecessary losses of too many young people in Michigan. If we can save even one life, it's a success story."

Additional critical factors in prevention of SCDY are early intervention and bystander response. The American Heart Association recommends the "Chain of Survival" to increase a sudden cardiac arrest victim's chance for survival. These include early recognition of sudden cardiac arrest, early call to 9-1-1, early CPR, early use of an AED, and early advanced life support.

For more information about SCDY prevention in Michigan, visit For more information about CHD, visit

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