Could your student be at risk for sudden cardiac death?

Could your student be at risk for sudden cardiac death?

Recently, California law makers made it mandatory that all high school athletes undergo testing prior to competing. The test has nothing to do with academics – it is to test for risks associated with sudden cardiac death.

In Illinois, Dr. Joseph Marek, a cardiologist at the Advocate Heart Institute and founder of Young Hearts for Life (YH4L) is making the same impact and saving lives. Dr. Marek created YH4L in 2006 after reading a few stories in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal about Italian athletes being evaluated with electrocardiography (EKG) machines to find any sort of abnormalities with the heart that could cause sudden cardiac arrest.  Then, days after reading the articles, an athlete in Naperville died while playing a game of pickup basketball.  Dr. Marek knew that something should be done.

“It really is a simple solution to a terrible problem,” says Dr. Marek.  “We can run a test to see if someone is at risk of sudden cardiac death and hopefully avoid the occurrence altogether – but you have to get checked.”

Dr. Marek recommends that anyone between the ages of  12 to 20, not just athletes, gets checked for their risk.  “It is a good idea to get checked every two years.  This can help all kids, but certainly anyone that is physically active should be screened.”

The importance of being proactively screened cannot be understated, as Dr. Marek explains that 50 percent of cases had no prior symptoms that would indicate a need for concern.  A screening is fairly quick and completely pain free, only involving adhesive pads being placed externally on the body.  And, the best part of all, YH4L provides this service free of charge.

“We are very fortunate to have community members wanting to help,” says Dr. Marek.  “We can train an entire set of parents to perform the EKG screenings in about an hour and we can service hundreds of people in one day.  It is a low cost, large scale, high reward operation that is literally saving the lives of unsuspecting teenagers.”

For more information on YH4L on where the next screening will be and to get involved, visit

Do you know your risk for heart disease? Take our heart risk assessment here. If you are at high risk, see one of Advocate Heart Institute’s cardiologists within 24 hours.

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One Comment

  1. My 7 year old son went into cardiac arrest in gym class. The school nurse used the AED and performed CPR until paramedics arrived. He now has an ICD. I am blessed the staff at the school was so well trained. He is doing great!!!

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.