Go Red for Heart Awareness

Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week promotes awareness, education

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh

(RxWiki News) Valentine’s Day can be a time for celebrating love or for nursing a broken heart. But it's also a time to recognize those born with a physically broken heart.

According to a recent announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week will be held from Feb. 7 through Feb. 14. This annual event aims to promote education and awareness about congenital heart defects (CHDs).

CHDs are structural problems within the heart that are present at birth. These defects can disrupt the arteries or veins that transport blood to the heart, the heart’s interior wall or the heart’s valves — all of which can impede normal blood flow.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), CHDs are the most common type of birth defect — with more than 35,000 babies born with them each year in the US. CHDs range in severity from simple conditions to complex ones that require immediate medical care.

Although children born with CHDs today have much better outcomes than those in the past, complex cases often require long-term and specialized care. Children with severe CHDs are also at an increased risk for infective endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart's chambers and valves.

To avoid this potentially serious condition, the CDC recommends CHD patients be extremely cautious about any procedure that could allow bacteria into the bloodstream. Many CHD patients are given antibiotics before dental procedures to kill bacteria before any can cling to a vulnerable part of the heart.

The NIH stresses that CHD patients need to be more mindful about nutrition, exercise, birth control and pregnancy, health insurance and employment than other people. Parents of children with CHDs should also look out for emotional issues that commonly affect children who may feel isolated by their condition.

The CDC is currently working with state tracking programs to screen newborns for CHDs, funding programs to track birth defects and funding research centers across the US to better understand what causes birth defects, including CHDs. The CDC has also launched projects to track CHD patients across their lifetimes.

Research funded by the CDC recently found a potential link between certain CHDs in babies whose mothers were exposed to pesticides at work, and a reduction in CHDs in babies whose mothers had better diets overall.

Anyone wanting to learn more about CHDs can find additional information on the CDC's website.

Review Date: 
February 6, 2016
Last Updated:
February 9, 2016