Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Hearts of Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is the time of year for love, flowers, and images of hearts. It’s the perfect time of year for Congenital Heart Disease Awareness week. Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) means that a person was born with a heart defect. This could be any one of a number of problems ranging from a defective valve to a hole in the wall of the heart. A person could have symptoms of their defect from birth, or sometimes never have any symptoms at all. It depends on the severity of their particular case, and it can often be treated with surgery.

Years ago, patients with CHD were taught to avoid exercise so as not to overexert themselves and, consequently, their hearts. Children grew up not knowing what it was like to play sports, run wildly, or play tag with their friends. Amazingly, over many years this old way of treatment has been flipped on its head. Studies are now showing that exercise can have an incredibly positive impact on cardiopulmonary function in CHD patients. Doctors are now prescribing exercise to adults and children alike.

This new way of thinking is a beacon of hope for so many patients diagnosed with CHD. In fact, one very famous individual who was diagnosed with CHD has put all of the past beliefs of not being able to exert yourself when you have CHD to shame. Shaun White has competed in the winter Olympics several times where he has outcompeted countless other individuals for gold – more than once. If that’s not passion, dedication, and inspiration; I don’t know what is.


Posted by Natasha Dalton (1)


  1. It's amazing how much treatment for diseases and other illnesses has evolved over the years - such as those with CHD once being told they should not exercise, and today being told to do the exact opposite. Same with smoking - doctors used to say they were good for health and well being. Same thing with "ice pick" lobotomies (and they were still dong this into the late 1960's!).

    -- Hannah Kullberg

  2. It's interesting that although CHD seems very restrictive in terms of exercise, exercise is actually being prescribed as treatment. You would think exercise would have a negative effect on those with CHD, but your article claims the very opposite. I wonder if the treatment varies with heart defects, or if exercise isn't an option for those with more severe CHD.

    Posted by Angelina Weng (3)

  3. I wonder what exercises would be most beneficial for CHD. I have always understood that running is good for heart health in healthy individuals but I wonder what effect it would have on people diagnosed with CDH. I also am curious about how they could go through and Identify which exercises are the best treatment for CHD. It's crazy to think that treatments can be the exact reverse of what we thought it was it makes you wonder what other treatment that we are messing up.

    Zane Ruehrwein (3)

  4. I find it very shocking that people were advised not to exercise at one point. This is because we are always told that exercise keeps us healthy. I know exercise helps with a lot of illnesses because it not only makes us stronger but healthier. I do see why some may think that exercise is bad for the heart but, I don't quite agree. Are there treatments that can get rid of this disease or is it still being researched?

    - Tatiana Silveira

  5. It is all the more astounding to understand the difficulties of overcoming the many obstacles with CHD when looking at Shaun White's story. He was born with the condition Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF) which is a combination of 4 abnormalities within the heart. It includes a ventricular septal defect, pulmonary stenosis, right ventricular hypertrophy, and an overriding aorta. He had to have 3 open heart surgeries when he was born in order to survive. His entire athletic career has been achieved with this condition underneath the surface, and it is an inspiration to see him succeed so much with it.

    -Derek Simoncelli (3)

  6. I found it interesting how exercise was thought to be harmful to patients with CHD and now it is prescribed to those with this disease. I wonder if exercise is more detrimental to others on a case by case basis or if others are at more of a capacity to exercise, which is why it was prescribed.

    Sunaina Sharma (3)

  7. I never knew that Shaun White suffered from any heart defects, but that definitely makes for a good story. I can't even imagine how many people born with this condition just gave up on dreams like his after finding out they were afflicted. Hopefully people can look to him as a sign that this disease should not control their life.

    -James Bowler

  8. I can imagine that leading a life lacking in exercise would just train your circulatory system to be significantly weaker, never mind with a CHD. I understand how extreme exercise could lead to in the moment heart problems, but in proper quantities exercise can help build up strength throughout the systems of the body.