Doctor Urges Attention to Kids' Heart Health

Overweight children are not the only ones in danger of heart disease, and a Colorado (search) doctor is pushing for increased attention among all parents to this often-overlooked youth health concern.

"We don't want a child to die because of ignorance," said Colorado Heart and Body Imaging’s Dr. James Ehrlich (search), who works with adults and children to identify cardiovascular disease.

Regardless of whether a child is battling weight problems or is a lean athlete, there could be cause for immediate concern.

Ehrlich says more lives could be saved if patients are checked earlier.

Take Adreanna West, for example.

Adreanna's mother brought her to Ehrlich's center for a peek into her daughter's carotid artery.

“She's 16 and she's just really concerned about her weight and getting healthy," said Charlene West, Adreanna’s mother.

“We're using ultrasound to look for thickening of the back wall of this carotid artery, which studies have shown is one of the earliest ways to determine whether somebody has early heart disease and cardiovascular disease," Ehrlich said.

And if they do, treatment is often as simple as a lifestyle change, and sometimes it requires medication.

Even when children are in prime physical shape, such as 16-year-old Christopher Baerren, testing is needed “to see if my heart will, like, not fail when I'm running or playing any kind of sport," he said.

Ehrlich is pushing schools to test all athletes for HCM, or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (search), the most common cause of cardiac death among athletes.

Undetected, most parents find out about HCM after their son or daughter dies on the field or court.

“We're going to feel that when he goes out and runs that we're not going to have to worry," said Mari Baerren, Christopher’s mother.

Ehrlich hopes that if parents learn to worry now, their children won't become adults with far deadlier concerns of the heart.

Click in the video box at the top of this story to watch a report by FOX News’ Alicia Acuna.