Coronary Artery Disease
It’s common to think of high blood pressure and high cholesterol as adult health issues, but you may be surprised to learn that coronary artery disease actually starts in childhood. In fact, nearly 1 in 250 children have high cholesterol.
The good news is that there’s a lot we can do to help children stay healthy. Focusing on early detection and individualized treatments, Children’s Health has been helping children reduce their risk of complications for over 20 years. We were one of the first pediatric prevention programs in North Texas.
Coronary artery disease is a heart condition in which a waxy substance (plaque) builds up inside the arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to your child’s heart (coronary arteries). Left untreated, your child is at risk for conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which can lead to life-threatening complications.
With a lifelong commitment to preventive treatment, your child can avoid these risks.
Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease
Some children have a higher risk for coronary artery disease than others. Especially if they have:
- Had long-term exposure to toxins
- Certain medical conditions such as Kawasaki disease, cardiomyopathies or rheumatic heat disease
- Family history of heart disease
- A higher than normal body mass index (obesity)
Each child may experience symptoms differently. These symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Tiredness (fatigue)
Although some children experience no symptoms, they are still at risk for complications. This is why it’s important to get preventive care from doctors specializing in pediatric cardiology.
Diagnosing Coronary Artery Disease
Accurately diagnosing your child’s condition helps us make sure they receive the treatments they need to stay healthy. We start with a comprehensive exam, which may include one or more separate tests.
Your child’s physical evaluation may include:
- Questions about growth, development, family history and any recent illnesses
- Listening to the heart and lungs
- Observing symptoms
Diagnostic testing may include:
- Blood tests
- Chest X-ray
- Electrocardiogram (EKG)
- Urine test
Our large team of specialists includes experts in every aspect of pediatric heart disease, including diagnostic imaging. Learn more about the full range of tests we offer in our cardiac imaging department.
We may also ask members of your family to undergo similar testing so we can understand if this condition has been passed down (inherited). This is an important factor in determining the best treatment for your child.
Treating Coronary Artery Disease
We use tried and true methods to treat your child’s condition, including:
- Heart healthy diet
Part of what makes preventive cardiac care at Children’s special is our focus on personalized treatment plans, including:
- Choosing the most appropriate medications for your child’s condition, including appropriate dosing and generics or over the counter remedies whenever possible
- Adjusting treatments to fit your child’s needs, which may include changing their medication dose or trying to incorporate some of their favorite foods into their new diet
- Being attentive to your child’s feelings about their condition and treatment
Leveraging the full resources available at Children’s we may also refer your child for additional specialized services to help them achieve treatment goals, including:
- Special help with food choices from clinical nutrition services
- Expert care for thyroid disorders from the endocrinology center
- Weight management support from the Center for Obesity and its Consequences (COACH) Program
Your child will need lifelong care for their condition. You can expect to meet with one of our prevention experts every 4 to 6 months to make sure treatments are working.
Coronary Artery Disease Resources
Learn more about coronary artery disease in children:
Coronary Artery Disease FAQs
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
Is it possible for my child to have a heart attack?
Yes, without treatment your child is at risk for the same complications as adults who have high cholesterol and high blood pressure. This includes heart attacks.
Will my child always need treatment for their condition?
Yes, once your child has been diagnosed with high blood pressure or high cholesterol, they will always be at higher than normal risk, even if they seem perfectly healthy.
What causes high blood pressure in children?
Other than obesity, we don’t know much about what causes high blood pressure in children. When children have severe high blood pressure, it’s often sign of a more serious condition such as kidney disease or a congenital heart defect.
How do I know if my child has high blood pressure or high cholesterol?
These conditions are normally first detected during routine physical exams. If your child is experiencing symptoms, he or she should receive these tests right away. If there is a family history of heart disease, your child should be tested before they reach five years of age.