Today's big health news is that Singaporeans only have a vague idea about how to prevent heart disease. So I have decided to write a series of blogs on the factors that affect the health of your heart and what you should do. Let me first start by giving you a real life scenario:
Mr M was a 42 year old patient of mine who has a history of high blood pressure and cholesterol. When I first saw him about a year ago, he was perfectly well, aside from high blood pressure and high cholesterol. He suffered no symptoms at all. He told me that he previously had an excercise stress test that showed some minor irregularities but he has not followed up on it. My advice to him was that he should go for a repeat excercise stress test and referred him to a cardiologist for follow up.
The months went by, and Mr M delayed going to the cardiologist because he felt he had no symptoms and did not want to do another stress test. I don't blame him, because in an excercise stress test, you go on a thread mill and have to run for a period of time. (How many of us like to do that?)
I finally suggested an alternative which was to do a 3D CT scan of the heart to look at the blood vessels of the heart which he finally agreed to do. An example of the 3D CT scan is shown above.
The 3D CT showed that his main artery was critically blocked and that his other 2 arteries have also narrowed. This means that at any time, he might suffer a massive heart attack. Within a week he had open heart surgery and had a 6 vessel bypass! The 3D CT scan had saved his life.
How you get a Heart Attack and Stroke
Cardiovascular problems (Cardio - heart, Vascular - blood vessels) are one of the biggest killers in Singapore. They occur when because of certain factors the blood vessels to the heart and brain narrow and eventually blood supply to these vital organs are cut off. The result is a heart attack or a stroke.
What are the Risk Factors for Heart Disease?
Below are the risk factors for Heart Disease, I like to divide them into 3 groups.
Group 1: Those things you can't do much about.
1. Male - if you are a man your risk goes up
2. Age - Men above 45 and women above 55 have higher risk
3. Genetics - If your parents have heart disease, you are at higher risk
Group 2: Those things you can do for yourself
1. Smoking - Stop smoking! Smoking dramatically increases risk of cardiovascular diseases
2. Alcohol - Too much drinking will also increase risk.
3. Obesity - Diet and Excercise and keep your weight to below a BMI of 23!
Group 3: The things you should consult your Doctor:
1. Hypertension - The silent killer, you may not feel any symptoms and the damage is gradual
3. Cholesterol levels
The bottomline is this: Prevention is better than cure and you should visit your doctor to discuss with him about how to prevent heart disease!
In the meantime, if you know your cholesterol and blood pressure readings, you may wish to calculate your 10 year risk of getting a heart attack by clicking this.
More information about Cardiovascular Risk Factors are found here
My next Blog in the Cardiovascular Health Series will touch on Cholesterol and how to read your cholesterol report.