Long QT syndrome – One of the causes of sudden cardiac death among adolescents
About 1 in 5,000 people have Long QT syndrome (LQTS), and it occurs in both children and adolescents. We might not often hear about LQTS, however, it affects youngsters and may even cause a sudden death.
Long QT syndrome (LQTS) is a disorder of the heart’s electrical activity. It can cause sudden, uncontrollable, dangerous arrhythmias in response to exercise or stress often leading to fainting.
According to Regency Specialist Hospital’s cardiologist Dr Ang Kai Ping, there are three types of LQTS which are relatively common; LQTS 1, LQTS 2 and LQTS 3. These LQTS are caused by exercise, especially swimming (LQTS 1), adrenergic triggers, nightly noise such as the alarm clock (LQTS 2) and sudden waking up (LQTS 3).
Many people may not be aware of the existence of LQTS among themselves as it may not have any signs or symptoms which develop as a silent LQTS. Therefore, Dr Ang advises one to seek medical advice if,
- We develop sudden, uncontrollable and chaotic heart rhythms during exercise
- We are feeling strong emotions for no apparent reason
- We have seizures
- Our parent, sibling or child has been diagnosed with LQTS and it might be inherited and the family members are advised to test for disorder.
“There are few types of medical treatments available in the industry. Patient takes medication likes beta-blockers which slow the heart rate by blunting their heart’s reaction to adrenaline in times of exertion, stress or fear. This can reduce the chance of dangerous rhythms from occurring. Another common medical procedure is an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) which is placed under the skin of the chest. It will monitor the heartbeat and deliver electrical shocks to restore a normal heart rhythm if necessary,” added Dr Ang.
Long QT syndrome (LQTS) is usually a lifelong condition and may cause fear, anxiety, depression, and stress. It is important to live with LQTS consciously to prevent abnormal heart rhythms by following these steps,
- Avoid things that may trigger abnormal heart rhythms. If exercise triggers abnormal heart rhythm, your doctor may tell you to avoid any strenuous exercise, especially swimming. Do note that medicines that are used to treat allergies, infections, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, depression, and arrhythmias may cause irregular heart rhythms as well.
- Inform others. Let your surrounding people know that you might faint or your heart might stop beating, and tell them what steps they can take. It is important that someone beside you can perform CPR and use the Automated External Defibrillator (AED). This device uses electric shocks to restore a normal heart rhythm. All these can help to save your life.
- See your cardiologists regularly to understand your condition and they will suggest the suitable treatment for you.
Taking care of your heart is crucial as it helps to pump blood to the body, supply oxygen and nutrients to the tissues. “Avoiding saturated fats, trans-fats, and excess sodium intake is important for a healthy heart diet. The recommended salt intake per day is 2,400mg while 4000mg is the average salt intake per day in Malaysian population. Keep yourself away from processed food, fast food, canned food, salted food and sauces which are high in sodium content”, says Regency Specialist Hospital’s dietitian, Fong Mok Yan.
According to the hospital’s physiotherapist, Shyamalah, there are two types of exercises that are excellent for our heart; namely aerobic exercise and resistance training. However, it is always good to check with your doctor on your condition and suitability first before embarking on any kinds of exercise.