National Heart Month — Information from AboutKidsHealth

February is National Heart Month. For most people, the heart works efficiently to deliver blood, oxygen and nutrients to organs and tissues in the body. Some conditions can make this more difficult.

To mark National Heart Month, AboutKidsHealth has shared information on hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, as well as tips on how to talk to kids about their heart condition.

 

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a heart condition that causes the muscle in the heart, usually in the ventricles, to become unusually thick (hypertrophy). This affects the ability of the heart to pump and relax effectively and send blood to the body and/or lungs.

An altered arrangement of muscle fibres from the thickened muscle can also cause abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias), which are potentially fatal.

The most common cause of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is usually genetic, meaning it is passed along through families. It may also be caused by infections or conditions affecting the body’s metabolism. The condition can develop at any age, and it is one of the most common causes of sudden death in young athletes.

Read more about this condition and its signs and symptoms in the article, “Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy”.

How to talk to your child about their heart condition

It can be difficult to talk to your child about their heart condition, but it’s important that they know as much as they’d like to about their condition and their healthcare. Here are some tips to guide the conversation when your child has questions or shows signs they are ready to talk.

  • Find out what they already know.

  • Clarify their understanding, and answer any questions they might have. Your answers may vary based on your child’s age.

  • Let your child lead the discussion as much as possible, and be aware of their responses to information (like changes in mood or behaviour).

  • Let them decide how much information they want to have.

Find specific tips for talking to children of different age ranges between 3 and 18 depending on their understanding of illness and its causes in the AboutKidsHealth article, “Talking to your child about their heart condition”.

AboutKidsHealth is SickKids' health education website, which offers more than 3,500 articles, illustrations and videos on a range of paediatric health topics. For more information on heart conditions and other health topics, visit aboutkidshealth.ca