Lifewatch: ADHD and ADD

CHARLOTTE -- According to The American Heart Association, children with ADD or ADHD should have their hearts checked before starting medication.

Doctors agree that children taking medications for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder should have an electro-cardiogram. The information the test gives doctors is very important.

"This thing can tell you if any of the chambers of the heart are enlarged or if there are any electrical abnormalities in the heart that might lead to an abnormal heart rhythm," said Dr. Victoria Vetter.

According to Dr. Vetter, studies have shown medications that treat ADHD and ADD can increase heart rate and blood pressure.

She said children with heart conditions who take the medicine may be at risk for sudden cardiac death.

Many times heart conditions in children are undiagnosed, so all children taking the medications should be checked.

"Probably as many as two percent of the population of children have heart conditions that can put them at risk for a sudden cardiac event that can be quite serious, but they don't know that they have it," said Dr. Vetter.

In addition to an ECG, doctors recommend a physical exam.

"This includes taking a very thorough family history, asking if there are any sudden deaths under the age of 30, 35. Asking questions about the patient's personal medical history. Have they ever fainted? Especially during or immediately after exercise, do they have chest pain with exercise?" said Dr. Vetter.

The most common ADHD medications include: Concerta, Ritalin, Adderall, and Strattera.

"These medications are simply stimulants. Exercise can have the same effect. So we want to identify children with heart disease. That does not mean they can't take the medication, we simply want them to take it safely," said Dr. Vetter.

This new decision from The American Heart Association is a precaution to keep children safe.

Reported by Kristy Ondo