Preventive Cardiology Program

The Preventive Cardiology Program is committed to improving the health of children at risk for heart disease. We care for children who have cardiac risk factors for heart and vascular disease which may include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, and a family history of heart attacks and strokes. 

Patients cared for in this clinic have the following conditions: 

Learn more about the conditions we treat

Meet Our Team

Kendra M. Ward, MD, MS

Director, Preventive Cardiology Program, Exercise Lab, and Cardiac Rehabilitation Program; Attending Physician, Pediatric Cardiology and Electrophysiology; Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Guilherme Baptista De Faria, MD

Attending Physician, Pediatric Cardiology; Instructor of Pediatrics in Cardiology and Preventive Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Irwin Benuck, MD, PhD

Division Head, Community-Based Primary Care Pediatrics; Professor of Pediatrics, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Amanda Marma, MD

Attending Physician, Pediatric Cardiology; Instructor of Pediatric Cardiology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Sheetal R. Patel, MD, MSCI, FAAP

Attending Physician, Pediatric Cardiology; Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Additional Team Members

Make an Appointment

You can make an appointment with the Preventive Cardiology team through a pediatrician referral, or by calling 1.800.KIDS.DOC (1.800.543.7362).

In addition to in-person visits, we now offer telemedicine visits via video or phone. Some appointments will still require you to be seen in-person, but your physician and care team will let you know if a telemedicine appointment is available.

Conditions We Treat

Elevated cholesterol 

Cholesterol is a soft, fat-like substance found in the bloodstream and in all your body’s cells. Your body, especially the liver, makes all the cholesterol it needs. The cholesterol circulates through the blood. Cholesterol is also found in foods from animal sources, such as meat, eggs or full fat dairy products. Your liver produces more cholesterol when you eat a diet high in saturated and trans-fats. Too much cholesterol can form plaque between layers of artery walls, making it harder for your heart to circulate blood, which can lead to heart disease, strokes or early heart attacks.  

High cholesterol is one of the major controllable risk factors for heart disease, heart attacks and stroke. Research shows that the buildup of fatty plaque in arteries begins in childhood and progresses slowly into adulthood. As your blood cholesterol rises, so does the risk of heart disease. Your cholesterol levels can be affected by your age, gender, family health history and diet. 

There are many types of cholesterol. There are two types generally discussed. High Density Lipoprotein (HDL), which is often referred to as the “good” cholesterol, and Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL), which is the “bad” cholesterol.  

LDL Cholesterol

This type of cholesterol is often called “the bad” cholesterol. When there is too much LDL cholesterol in your blood, it can contribute to the formation of plaque buildup in the arteries. 

The arteries can become narrow and even clog, causing a reduction in blood flow. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke. 

HDL Cholesterol

This type of cholesterol is often called “the good” cholesterol. It helps remove the “bad” LDL cholesterol from arteries and helps protect you from heart attack and stroke. 


Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in your blood. High levels of triglycerides are often found in children and adolescents with other risk factors such as high LDL and low HDL.

High Blood Pressure  

High blood pressure in children and adolescents is now commonly observed. If left untreated, hypertension can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney damage, vision loss and memory loss. 


Obesity occurs when a child is significantly over the ideal weight for height. Obesity in children is determined by using a BMI percentile (measure of weight in relation to height). Obesity can increase risk factors for heart disease, elevated cholesterol, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, liver disease and orthopedic problems. 

Your Visit

At your appointment, our team will develop a comprehensive plan for your child based on the following information. We may:

  • Measure your child’s height, weight, Body Mass Index (BMI) and other vital signs 
  • Review current medications your child is taking 
  • Complete a detailed family history of medical conditions 
  • Complete a nutritional assessment 
  • Review lifestyle habits and typical diet 
  • ECG, Echocardiogram, labs and exercise stress testing may be performed 
  • Review lab results (if available) 
  • Perform a physical evaluation and offer medical analysis 
  • Review heart healthy diet, lifestyle adjustments and possibly medications that will improve your child’s health. We will use those recommendations to set goals for you and your child. 
  • Refer your child for an assessment in the Preventive Cardiology Exercise Lab

Exercise Physiology Assessment

Patients will have an evaluation with an experienced and certified clinical exercise physiologist. The exercise physiologist will provide exercise consultation/intervention and promote healthy lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disease in the future, as well as improve overall quality of life, social and emotional health.

The assessment will include the following interventions:

  • Baseline and annual cardiopulmonary exercise testing to evaluate overall physical abilities and breathing efficiency 
  • Biometric assessments to evaluate progress and need for further intervention/modification to current interventions 
  • Creation of exercise prescription 
  • Routine follow-up visits with exercise prescription revision and consultation

Heart Center Family Resource Guide

To help prepare families for their care with Lurie Children's Heart Center, we have compiled a list of resources that may be of use throughout treatment — whether it's getting ready for an inpatient stay or outpatient visit, or learning more about the support services available to patients and families.

Additional Resources

The following websites offer more information on healthy eating and living. 

The following organizations offer good programming to help keep kids active:

Download a list of recreational resources available throughout the Chicago area.


We’re participating in the CASCADE FH Registry, which is a database that is collecting information such as diagnoses, patient outcomes and disease patterns for people with familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). The goal of the CASCADE FH Registry is to improve the quality of care for individuals with FH, advance the scientific understanding of the condition and increase the rate of diagnosis. Learn more about the CASCADE FH Registry.

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