Recent teen death raises heart condition awareness

After a local teen died from what appeared to be heart disease, parents throughout the Garden State are expressing concern about how to protect their children from similar issues.

Sean Fisher, a Waldwick teen, died last week after collapsing on a football field. Fisher?s death is still under investigation, but preliminary reports show he died of a previously undiagnosed heart condition.

Hackensack University Medical Center?s Dr. Robert Tozzi has done extensive research on heart diseases, and he thinks parents are wise to be concerned for their kids.

According to Tozzi, one of the most common heart diseases is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the left ventricle wall. ?We know that this disease ? that causes death during sports is inherited,? Tozzi says.

Tozzi believes screening is the way to go. To find out if a person is at risk, Tozzi uses genetic testing on family members, starting with the oldest relatives, to determine if anyone already has the disease. ?Once you identify that patient, you now have half the family members, currently at risk for a similar event or disease,? he explains.

Fred Hirsch?s son Gregory died of the disease seven years ago while he was sleeping. Hirsch has been educating others about the disease ever since.

?It effects 1 in 500 people and you don't have to be doing something strenuous,? Hirsch says.

Tozzi believes screening a patient with both EKG and an Echo-cardiogram could help to detect a problem before it?s too late. ?If you look at it as a screening tool, you probably could reduce the chance of children dying suddenly in sports by over 50 percent,? Tozzi says.

In addition to screening, a healthy diet and exercise can also help prevent heart problems.For more information, contact Hackensack University Medical Center's Pediatric Cardiology Center by calling (201) 487-7617.

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