Red-hat campaign helps raise awareness of babies' heart health

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The American Heart Association's "Little Hats, Big Hearts" campaign is raising awareness to show how babies are affected by congenital heart defects. (KABC)

Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defects, affecting about one out of every 100 babies.

The American Heart Association kicked off a special awareness campaign to show how the very youngest patients are affected.

Emotion overwhelms new mother Maria Marroso.

Doctors are examining her preemie son's heart

"He is 36 weeks old. He was born on Tuesday," said Marroso.

Marroso herself was born with a heart murmur that led to surgery at age 5.

But today's she doing fine.

The red hats volunteers bring are why she's sharing her family's story.

It's part of the American Heart Association's "Little Hats, Big Hearts" campaign.

Adventist White Memorial Medical Center pediatric cardiogist Dr. Elizabeth de Oliveira said, "Right now, there are more adults living with congenital heart disease over the age of 20 than there are those living under the age of 20."

Today, 1.5 million people have some form of congenital heart defect.

"Eighty-five percent are surviving to adulthood because of surgical intervention and medical care from the very early on," she said.

With more people living with heart disease, congenital and other forms, doctors say the call to make heart healthy decisions has to happen at every age.

At White Memorial Center, participants of the Vive Bien Seniors Wellness Program are bringing the heart-smart message full circle with exercise and learning about better nutrition.

Heart patient Letty Rodriguez, 67, and her fellow volunteers want awareness and education to start at birth.

"We crocheted the little red hats and blankets," she said.

And they're handing these hats out to every baby born at the hospital February.

De Oliveira hopes to stem the tide of childhood obesity with every patient she sees.

"I ask them about their lifestyles. Do they exercise? Are they taking good care of their body? Are they eating healthy?" she said.

And doctors hope the progress medicine is making with congenital heart disease will continue and babies like Marroso's son Jaden will go on to take care of their hearts for life.
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