JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Doctors spoke out Sunday about heart disease at a free congenital heart symposium at the Mayo Clinic.
The symposium was an opportunity for doctors to educate the community about heart health and heart conditions, like congenital heart defects.
Congenital heart defects are structural problems with the heart present at birth. Defects range in severity from simple problems, such as "holes" between chambers of the heart, to very severe malformations, such as complete absence of one or more chambers or valves.
Doctors at the Mayo Clinic said that regular cardiovascular screenings are very important to maintain heart health and catch potential issues in time to treat them.
Doctors found a heart defect in Joe Meyer when was checked before he started playing high school sports. His condition required heart surgery at the age of 14.
“I'm able to do some light exercise,” Meyer said. “No competitive sports, or anything like that, but definitely more than I was able to do before I had the surgery.”
Dr. Naser Ammash said that if Meyer hadn't gone to the doctor, he may not have made it to adulthood.
“He could've had high risk of sudden cardiac death, heart failure, or irregular heartbeat and stroke,” Ammash said. “A sudden-death is the most important risk.”
It's a scary thought, but if you don't know the status of your heart health, death can happen. Some patients don't discover they have congenital heart disease until they’re in their 40s or 50s.
The good news is, there are multiple treatment options for patients.
“There are multiple available options other than surgery now,” Ammash said. “We could do things we could never dream about years ago, but sometimes surgery is the best option.”
If you haven't had your heart checked in a while, doctors urge you to go in for a checkup and learn how to keep your heart healthy.