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U.S. record: 250K Illinois students screened for heart conditions; hundreds of students’ lives potentially saved

Dr. Marek reviews the ECG results of a student at Montini High School with volunteers Bill Christensen and Jeri Gosselin.

We’ve all heard the tragic stories of a young adult collapsing and dying suddenly while participating in sports. In the United States, nearly 60 young adults die every week from sudden cardiac death. That’s approximately 3,000 lives cut short in an instant each year according to the American Heart Association.

The vast majority of these deaths are preventable if the potentially lethal heart defect or abnormality is diagnosed early and treated appropriately. Dr. Joseph Marek, a cardiologist with Advocate Aurora Health, wanted to help prevent these untimely deaths and founded the Young Hearts for Life (YH4L) cardiac screening program, which is supported entirely by philanthropy.

To date, more than 2,900 students screened through YH4L have been identified as “at risk.” Of those, hundreds were found to have life-threatening conditions, including hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, Long QT syndrome, Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, Brugada syndrome and arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia.

Dr. Marek is proud of everything YH4L has accomplished so far. “Our program is the number one youth heart screening program in the United States. We are making a difference. We are saving lives.”

Dr. Marek explains, “We perform screenings looking for silent, undetected cardiac rhythm abnormalities that can, without warning, become immediately catastrophic. If we can identify these abnormalities, we can help these teens before it’s too late.”

YH4L recently hit a milestone of performing its 250,000th EKG. Dr. Marek shared, “No other program of this kind even comes close in volume of screenings. Our team has found students with abnormal results at every screening except one.”

How you can help

YH4L is under the umbrella of the Advocate Charitable Foundation and is supported entirely by the generosity of donors like you. Volunteers play a key role is making this program possible. YH4L performs free EKG (electrocardiogram) screenings for high school and college students specifically looking for markers of sudden cardiac death risk, as well as educating the community and helping schools be prepared to deal with cardiac arrest.

Please consider making a gift to this lifesaving program today.