6th Grader Heart Exams Shock Researchers

Heart screenings given to 94 sixth graders at a school in Houston uncovered seven kids with heart conditions, including two requiring surgery, reports the Houston Chronicle. The study, led by Houston cardiologist Dr. John Higgins, shocked researchers who want to have heart screenings mandated for all sixth graders in the United States.

"Usually, the first time these kids have symptoms is during cardiac arrest," Higgins told the Houston Chronicle. "We had at least two cases in Houston last year where it was the first episode and they died."

The students tested were predominately black and Hispanic and almost half of them were overweight. Three of the kids were diagnosed with Stage 2 hypertension and others were found to have early onset of high blood pressure.

Higgins intends to test 1,500 middle schoolers in the Houston area as part of his $1 million study, the Houston Early Age Risk Testing and Screening or HEARTS. The screenings include a physical exam, an electrocardiogram and an echocardiogram as well as a health history.

The cardiologist wants to see the state legislature mandate screenings for all sixth graders, but heart exams are expensive and preventive EKG's and echocardiograms are usually not covered by insurance.

Read the full story at the Houston Chronicle.