Active Research Studies

LIFE and Health for Young Children with Congenital
Heart Defects

Lead PI: Patricia Longmuir

Main study contact: Miranda DiGasparro [email protected]

Research suggests that children’s physical activity begins to decline as early as 3 years of age. Inactive childhoods triple the risk of sedentary lifestyles, which, in adulthood are associated with diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. We know that children with congenital heart defects (CHD) are often less active than other children. The purpose of this research study was to find out if the movement skills and physical activity of children with CHD was related to their diagnosis or treatment.

Children with CHD were recruited to complete assessments of movement skill (Peabody Developmental Motor Scales-2 for children less than 6 years of age; Test of Gross Motor Development-2 for children 3 years of age or older), eye-hand coordination across the midline of the body, quality of life (PedsQL questionnaire) and daily activity (wearing an accelerometer for 7 days). Children were assessed every 8 months until 5 years of age and then once per year.

To date, we have found that children with simple or complex CHD or innocent heart murmurs have an increased risk for inactive lifestyles. The children who participated had, on average, the same movement skills as other children their age. While a small proportion of the children (about 10%) achieved the physical activity recommended for optimal health, most participants were less active than their peers. These differences in activity level could be recognized as early as 18 months of age and they persisted until age 6 years. The study results were not influenced by the children’s diagnosis or treatment. These results emphasize the need for interventions targeting the youngest children seen in a cardiac clinic, regardless of CHD diagnosis or innocent murmur. We are continuing to enroll children into this study, and to complete assessments until all children are 10 years of age. What we learn through this study will help us to encourage healthy lifestyles among children with CHD and develop new ways to support active play and the quality of life of children living with CHD.