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Understanding Your Condition

Understanding your heart condition is an important step in taking control of your health.

Did you know?
  • Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect.
  • 1 in 100 people are born with a heart defect.
  • That means around 8 people are born each day in Australia with CHD.
  • There are over 72,000 Australians living with childhood heart disease.

Learn more about your condition

Learning about your heart and your condition can help you to manage it better. 

How does the heart work?

The heart is a muscle. Its job is to pump blood throughout the body. Blood carries the oxygen and nutrients that body organs need to stay healthy and work properly. 

The heart is divided into four chambers, two on the right and two on the left.

With each heartbeat, the heart sends blood throughout the body. 

To do this, the left and right sides of the heart perform different tasks:

  • The right side (coloured blue on the diagram) receives oxygen-poor blood from the body and pumps it into the lungs where it picks up oxygen
  • The left side (coloured red) receives this oxygen-rich blood from the lungs and pumps it through the rest of the body 

After delivering the oxygen, the blood returns to the heart and the cycle starts over again.

How is CHD treated?

There is no cure for CHD, but treatment options are improving all the time. Most people with CHD go on to live long and normal lives. 

CHD is a life-long condition, which means it needs life-long monitoring.

Treatments vary depending on the type of CHD. Some defects are mild and don't need treatment. Some cases are more complex and may need regular medication or many surgeries. 

Your medical team determines the outlook and best course of treatment for you. Their decisions are always made on an individual basis.

What causes CHD?

In approximately 80% of cases of congenital heart disease, the cause is unknown. About 20% of cases have a genetic link.

Some cases of acquired heart disease (conditions that develop after birth), can be caused by an illness or infection during childhood. Kawasaki disease and rheumatic heart are examples of childhood-acquired heart conditions.

Meet some other young people

  • Name: George Clarke
  • Age: 21 years
  • Condition: Mitral stenosis
  • 'I try not to focus on the restricted side of my heart condition. I just focus on what I can do and give it my all when I do it.'

Listen to George's story 

  • Name: Kennedy Cherrington
  • Age: 22 years
  • Condition: Mitral valve defect
  • 'My heart condition has probably taught me to be the hardest worker in the room. That's something I play by, live by.'

Watch Kennedy's story 

  • Name: Claire Hollinworth
  • Age: 27 years
  • Condition: Hypoplastic left ventricle and double outlet ventricle
  • 'Be patient with yourself and learning how to take care of your heart. You will find your groove soon enough.' 

Learn more about transition on the next page.

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