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Save a Life Foundation Offers Life-Saving Cardiac Screening Tests for Teens

AED DefibrillatorWhile sudden cardiac arrest is the second leading cause of death for those under 25, most teens are not tested for heart abnormalities as part of a routine physical exam. The Eric Paredes Save a Life Foundation is working hard to bring these important screenings to all San Diego area teens.

The foundation is named after Eric Paredes, a fifteen-year-old Steele Canyon High School sophomore athlete who died suddenly and unexpectedly from sudden cardiac arrest. His parents, Hector and Rhina Paredes, established the foundation to honor their son and to prevent this tragedy from happening to other families.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest Risks for Teen Athletes

Heart abnormalities are more common in teens than many parents might suspect. Among teens in the U.S., 1 in 350 have an underlying heart condition that can put them at risk. Thousands of kids die annually from sudden cardiac arrest. San Diego alone loses three to five teens every year.

Sudden cardiac arrest is 60 percent more likely to occur during exercise. As a result, student athletes are particularly susceptible. In fact, the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research found that more athletes die from a cardiac arrest than from incurring injuries while playing sports.

Many of the deaths are preventable. Tragically, teens, parents, coaches, and even medical professional often fail to detect the warning signs. A study by the American Board of Family Medicine study found that 72 percent of students who suffered a cardiac arrest were reported by their parents to have had at least one cardiovascular symptom before the event, such as unexplained fainting, lightheadedness, chest pain, shortness of breath, or heart palpitations.

Unlike a heart attack, which occurs when a blockage disrupts blood flow, sudden cardiac arrest happens when the heart's electrical system malfunctions. It is fatal in 92 percent of cases if not treated within minutes.

Teen Cardiac Screenings

Fortunately, the abnormalities that cause sudden cardiac arrest can be detected with a simple EKG. To boost awareness, the Save a Life Foundation offers free screenings at area high schools and local events. Screenings include a health history review, an EKG, consultation with a cardiologist, and if indicated, a limited echocardiogram.

Since 2010, the Save a Life Foundation has facilitated screening of 23,671 teens. Of those, 425 had heart abnormalities, and 179 teens were found to be at risk for sudden cardiac arrest. The foundation's ultimate goal is to standardize cardiac screenings among teens and equip schools with readily accessible automated external defibrillators (AED) with CPR/AED training for students and staff. If the Foundation comes to your local high school, we urge you to have your teens tested.

Eric Paredes Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act

In 2016, California Gerry Governor Brownsigned the Eric Paredes Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act into law. The legislation expands student athlete safety standards to include Sudden Cardiac Arrest protocol. It specifically requires the State Department of Education to post on its Internet Web site guidelines, videos, and an information sheet on sudden cardiac arrest symptoms and warning signs, and other relevant materials relating to sudden cardiac arrest.

Starting July 1, 2017, student athletes are required to acknowledge annually that they received a fact sheet on cardiac arrest warning signs. The new law also mandates that a coach or someone in a similar position must remove a student who passes out or faints during athletic activity.

The Save a Life Foundation is a great charity, and we fully support the efforts of this family to get every teen screened. For more information, please visit the EP Save a Life Foundation website.