Cardiac Risk in the Young: how does the charity support youngsters?

Written by: Dr Sabiha Gati
Edited by: Laura Burgess

Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) is a charity that brings awareness and prevention of potentially life-threatening cardiac conditions in young people. The organisation does this by offering an ECG (electrocardiogram) test and echocardiogram screening to every young person between the ages of 14 to 35.

Alongside screening, the charity holds Myheart meetings as additional support for young people with diagnosed cardiac problems. We were fortunate to speak to one of CRY’s cardiologists, Dr Sabiha Gati for more information.

A group of teenagers talking. Teenagers can be at risk of cardiac risk sometimes.

Can you tell us more about the meetings for those with cardiac conditions?

The ‘Test My Heart’ sessions are a great forum for young people with (usually inherited) cardiac conditions. These sessions allow the nurses/physiologists and the cardiologist to spend more time with young people discussing the impact of their condition on their everyday lives and psychological issues relating to coping with the disease and its management, such as fears about a shock from an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD).

These individuals also worry about relationships and concerns about having affected children in the future. In general, the clinic consultations in the NHS do not always allow for a very lengthy conversation about psychological issues. Furthermore, young patients do not always feel comfortable discussing them in such a forum.

The Myheart meetings allow clinical staff and affected young patients to become more acquainted with each other and permit a more relaxed and reassuring environment. It’s also good to hear from them what they would like more from us as clinicians in our clinics.

My group members get to know me as a person rather than the ‘doctor’ who simply manages their heart condition. I have a mantra, “the purpose of life is to make a difference to the life of others”. After Myheart sessions, I feel invigorated and go home feeling I have made a genuine difference.

What new research is CRY working on? And are there any other research projects that you have coming up too?

The CRY research team are currently working on several very interesting ideas including formulating exercise programmes for individuals with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. A greater understanding of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy has translated to improved medical care and better survival of affected individuals.

Previously, these individuals were considered high-risk of sudden cardiac death during exercise and therefore, a sedentary lifestyle was often promoted by clinicians. However, the work by Dr Joyee Basu (CRY research fellow) suggests that exercise in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy of moderate-intensity has a favourable effect on the cardiovascular system and is safe.

I also very much look forward to seeing the results Dr Gemma Parry-Williams’ projects on the veteran female athlete’s heart. It’s really good to see ‘women in cardiology’ having a significant impact at CRY.

In terms of new research, I’m looking forward to setting up a project at the Royal Brompton Hospital supported by CRY funding. The plan will be to evaluate young individuals with specific changes on their electrocardiogram and to identify whether they harbour subtle structural changes including myocardial scar using cardiovascular magnetic resonance.

Based on our analysis we will be able to create a new recommendation on ECG interpretation in young people and athletes. This will have a major impact on the cost-effectiveness, sensitivity and specificity of our cardiac screening programme.

What are your plans for the future?

I am settling into my consultant role at the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust. I am involved with the inherited cardiac conditions service to support patients with genetic cardiac diseases and cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) required for diagnosis at the Hospital.

I also have the pleasure of establishing a sports cardiology service dedicated to individuals with cardiovascular conditions who want advice on exercise and sports participation, a project which I’m very excited about and getting stuck in!

I am looking forward to supervising my first CRY funded research fellow who will be trained in inherited cardiac conditions, cardiovascular magnetic resonance and sports cardiology. The CRY fellow will be supporting the CRY screening program and will be supervised in the PhD program.

Dr Gati specialises in sports cardiology, cardiac screening, stress test, echocardiogram and cardiomyopathy. You can book an appointment to see her via her Top Doctor’s profile here.

By Dr Sabiha Gati

Dr Sabiha Gati is a highly-experienced consultant cardiologist who holds a special interest in inherited cardiac diseases, sports cardiology, breathlessness and dizziness.

Dr Gati completed her three year PhD research training, which involved echocardiography and inherited cardiac diseases and published her work in the scientific journal Circulation.

Her other peer-reviewed publications include work relating to left ventricular hypertrabeculation in athletes published in Heart, ECG guidelines in athletes published in European Heart Journal, and most recently aortic dimension in athletes, which was also published in the journal Heart.

Dr Gati is also part of several European Society of Cardiology guideline committees.

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