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'Little Hats, Big Hearts' program raising awareness of newborn heart health issues

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Adults and big kids aren't the only ones you'll see wearing red on this Valentine's Day. Babies are joining in on the heart theme, too!

That's because newborns at local hospitals have just been given their very own tiny red hats.

This is for the "Little Hats, Big Hearts" program. The goal of the program is to raise awareness of congenital heart defects and heart disease.

It's also to encourage parents to take control of their kids' heart health from the start.

Identical twins Adaline and Eliza were born 8 weeks premature on February 1 to parents Ashley and Nathan Bragg.

The newborns are staying at Memorial Hospital in South Bend until their parents are allowed to take them home.

Possible heart defects were a concern during Ashley's pregnancy.

Identical twins have an increased risk in getting the condition.

Luckily the Braggs learned Adeline and Eliza have healthy hearts. But they know the work for a strong, healthy heart continues long after birth.

Both Ashley and Nathan's parents have had heart attacks. Those are two reasons why the Braggs will set healthy habits for their children now.

And the little red hats given to Adaline and Eliza are an easy reminder to keep them up for life.

Doctor Robert White has been taking care of premature babies like Adaline and Eliza for 40 years.\

"Heart defects are pretty common in babies. Almost 1 percent of newborns have some form of congenital heart disease," he says.

Unfortunately, right now many heart defects are not preventable.

In fact it's the number one killer of newborns.

But Dr. White is optimistic. Through research, new treatments could drastically improve lives.

"Sooner or later we are going to get the answer to all of these things, and if we can't prevent them we will be able to treat them, and I've seen that over these many years," White said.

Norma Coronado-Ortiz is on a mission at the American Heart Association to help raise funding to go toward that heart research, with the goal of eliminating heart defects and disease.

"If we can start by getting our newborns free of this of any heart disease, then it will help us go on down into the future."

The American Heart Association is no longer accepting knitted donations this month, but they are still accepting financial support.

To learn more about the Little Hats, Big Hearts program, go to Heart.org.

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