‘Young Hearts for Life’ screens teens for hidden heart problems

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PARK RIDGE, Ill. -- Health experts are teaming up with school officials in Park Ridge to screen high school students for possible cardiac problems. "Young Hearts for Life" is a program aimed at reducing heart-related deaths among teens and young adults.

Doctors say a simple and painless procedure known as ECG, short for electrocardiogram, can detect close to 60 percent of most heart defects and other problems that can sometimes lead to sudden death.

Dr. Joseph Marek of Advocate Medical Group is spearheading an effort to screen 1,600 students over the next two days at Maine East High School.

The "Young Hearts for Life" program has tested more than 130,000 young people in scores of Chicago area schools over the last nine years.

The goal is to avoid the kind of tragedy that claimed the life of a Bolingbrook teen this winter. Dramon Ratcliff, a John F. Kennedy Middle School student in Plainfield, collapsed and died on the basketball court. The coroner later determined that the teen had a previously undiagnosed cardiac condition.

Dr. Marek says 3,000 to 4,000 young adults a year die from hidden heart defects across the United States. But he says the ECG test can help prevent these types of tragedies.

"When these events occur there are a variety of cardiac conditions that can cause these," Dr. Marek told WGN. "Very often these cardiac conditions are inherited, but most of the time they go undetected."

Dr. Marek says that sometimes insurance will not cover the cost of an ECG.  He says in most cases at your doctor's office it will cost anywhere from $35 to $75 to get the procedure done.

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