Individuals born with heart defects are living longer than ever thanks to advances in treatment and technology, according to a statement recently released by the American Heart Association.
This statement addresses congenital heart disease—an abnormality of the heart that’s present at birth. It is meant to complement 2008 guidelines released by the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association by providing an overview of congenital heart disease and recommendations for managing these heart defects in adults over 40 years old.
As authors explain, there are more Americans living with congenital heart disease than ever before. Not only are we better equipped to recognize signs of heart defects at birth, improving diagnosis, but advancements in treatment have helped patients live longer, healthier lives.
However, it’s important that patients with congenital heart disease work closely with their health care providers, even as adults. Experts explain that due to advances in treatment, patients may believe their condition has been fixed. However, lifelong management of congenital heart disease is the key to preventing complications and improving outcomes.
In their most recent statement, experts also highlight the broad range of defects. There are many different types of congenital heart disease, some of which are more serious than others. Many types of heart defects require little or no treatment and can resolve on their own, while others may call for medication and surgery. The key is for patients to work closely with their doctors to determine the best treatment plan based on their unique condition.
As authors point out, we still have plenty to learn about managing congenital heart disease, particularly in older adults. Since the first surgery on congenital heart defects in the 1950s, much of the research on the issue has been in younger patients. Since those born with heart defects are living well into adulthood, it’s important to track outcomes of older patients as well. With further research, experts hope to both increase diagnosis of congenital heart defects and continue to improve treatments.