Critical coverage: Red hats warm infants while highlighting heart health


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URBANA — What started as yarn picked up by Illinois National Bank employees and customers — as well as in Brigitte Pieke's knitting shop, Klose Knit — was delivered to Carle Foundation Hospital on Wednesday as a variety of small red hats for babies.

The hats, presented to babies that afternoon, were knitted as a part of the American Heart Association's "Little Hats, Big Hearts" initiative, which raises awareness for congenital heart disease. The hats do have a practical purpose, pediatric cardiologist David Chan said, because it's crucial to regulate a baby's temperature.

Heart awareness is important for parents, he said. Alarming markers, like tiny fatty streaks on coronary arteries, are recognized in kids as young as 1.

"There's a growing epidemic in this country," Chan said. "And that involves children that are born with normal hearts, but because of the issue that is childhood obesity, they lead to potential heart disease. That doesn't show until their adulthood, but the beginning starts as a child.

"So we need these kids to be getting the right nutrition, the right information about exercise, and the fact that if the families are involved with that, I guarantee you that the adults in the family will benefit more than the child."