Header image courtesy of Jesse Orrico (via Unsplash)
Cardiovascular disease is one of the major causes of death worldwide. If you want to enjoy life to the fullest, it’s important to look after the health of your heart well! Aside from improving your daily habits, it is also vital that you access your risk of ‘the three hypers’ through regular checkups. Remember, early detection and treatment are crucial for the prevention and halting the deterioration of cardiovascular conditions. We’ve consulted with a cardiologist at Gleneagles Hospital Hong Kong for expert advice and things to look out for.
We’re not here to scaremonger, but the truth is that heart diseases have been the third leading cause of death in Hong Kong since the 1960s. The broad umbrella term of ‘heart disease’, of course, encompasses a whole spectrum of issues such as coronary heart disease, hypertensive heart disease, chronic rheumatic heart disease, and congenital heart disease.
Among these, coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death—according to the Department of Health, an approximate average of 10.6 people died from this per day in 2017, with the ratio of male mortality being higher. Though the overall age-standardised death rate of coronary heart disease has shown a slight decreasing trend in recent years, it is still prudent to bear in mind the possible negative effects that your current lifestyle could have on your heart in the future.
Often, researching possible health conditions can prove to be an anxiety-ridden and often confusing dive into frightening statistics and medical jargon. Here is a (much simplified) explanation on coronary heart disease; for more details, please consult a medical professional.
Coronary heart disease occurs when fatty deposits of cholesterol develop in layers on the inner wall of coronary arteries, and therefore causes them to become more narrow. This then reduces the supply of blood to the cardiac muscles, resulting in an exertional chest pain known as angina.
Angina technically means any type of pain that is intense and suffocating, but is most often used in the context of heart diseases, and is generally understood to mean angina pectoris, which occurs when the heart muscles are not getting enough oxygen due to reduced blood flow. In order to access the severity of coronary artery disease, a CT coronary angiogram—a simple, non-invasive assessment of coronary artery status—can be considered in high-risk individuals, for better planning of a treatment strategy.
Treatment for coronary heart disease will, of course, vary according to each patient’s symptoms and the severity of the disease in each case, but in general is as follows.
For moderate coronary artery disease (characterised by a narrowing of less than 70 percent in major coronary arteries, or less than 50 percent in the left main artery), drug treatment will be the main mode of treatment. This could include statin, +/- aspirin, beta blockers to lower the heart rate and reduce strain to the heart during stress, and sublingual nitroglycerin to be dissolved under the tongue, which is effective against angina.
In the case of severe coronary artery disease (characterised by a narrowing of more than 70 percent in major coronary arteries, or more than 50 percent in the left main artery), interventional treatment—meaning coronary artery bypass surgery, which is an open-heart surgery—or percutaneous coronary intervention will be considered. The advancements in stent and equipment means that 99 percent of cases can actually be tackled with the latter option.
Percutaneous coronary intervention is more commonly known as balloon angioplasty and stenting. A coronary angiogram will be performed with a small wound to the radial artery on the wrist, followed by an intravascular ultrasound for a detailed assessment of the severity of the coronary heart disease. If judged to be severe stenosis, the artery will be opened up by balloon angioplasty, followed by stent implantation, to widen the blocked or narrowed segment of blood vessel, and reduce the risk of re-narrowing in the future (though not prevent it completely, of course).
Those suffering from coronary heart disease may experience centralised, crushing chest pain, generally triggered by exertion and relieved by rest. Typical pain caused by angina will feel like something is constricting or squeezing. This pain may radiate to the arm, shoulder, neck, jaw, back—or even in the stomach that might feel like indigestion. This will feel more severe and last longer in a heart attack.
Other symptoms include palpitations, dizziness, breaking out in a sweat, nausea, and weakness. This may also be associated with a lack of breath and bilateral leg swelling if the patient is in heart failure.
We understand that this sounds fairly alarming—how many of you are now thinking, “But I’ve had weird feelings in my chest before!”—but it’s important to remember that not all chest pain or chest discomfort is necessarily angina, or related to failing cardiac health. It could just be the result of trapped gas, acid reflux, or too much cheese before bed! That said, it’s always safer to check with a medical professional.
In general, the following are known risk factors for the development of coronary heart disease:
Do note that people can still suffer from angina without displaying any of the above common risk factors or the ‘three hypers’. Cardiovascular health is still very much an ongoing research. Similarly, one may not necessarily succumb to heart disease because they display all of the above risk factors; it just means they will be more susceptible to cardiac issues.
Of course, it goes without saying that prevention is better than cure, especially in the case of coronary heart diseases, which often cause complications or, of course, prove fatal if contracted.
It should come as no surprise that an overall healthy body will naturally be at lower risk for cardiovascular disease, so much of prevention is simply related to adopting a healthy lifestyle. To lower the risk of coronary heart disease, you should take a healthy, balanced diet, avoiding food high in cholesterol and fats (particularly saturated fats and trans fats). Smokers should work on cutting down, and eventually quitting the habit altogether. Regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy body weight and waist circumference, and reducing stress are also beneficial.
The possible benefits of alcohol consumption are still a point of contention, so suffice to say that non-drinkers should maintain sobriety, while regular drinkers should imbibe in moderation and not overdo it.
Apart from establishing and maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle, it is also important to get yourself tested professionally. While we’re definitely not encouraging you to hyperfixate on every odd twinge in your body and freak yourself out, there’s no way you’re going to know for sure if there’s truly an underlying issue unless you consult medical professionals. Ditch WebMD; it’s only going to tell you you might have terminal cancer!
Bring yourself instead to trusted professionals. Gleneagles Hospital Hong Kong are now offering a 28 percent discount on their cardiac checkup packages, so you can keep an eye on your heart’s health and have peace of mind by consulting their cardiologists. There are three different packages to choose from, so here’s a little breakdown to better understand what they each entail.
The Comfort Care Package helps you to recognise and get familiarised with your personal cardiopulmonary functions, and includes an electrocardiogram along with basic blood tests. This has been discounted from $7,490 originally to its current price of $5,390.
The Prestige Care Package lets you understand how well your heart and lungs function during a stress test. This includes an Exercise Treadmill Test, an electrocardiogram, and an echocardiogram. This package has been discounted from $10,190 originally to its current price of $7,340.
Finally, the Royal Care Package is a comprehensive, in-depth check up which includes tests for cardiac and pulmonary functions, cardiovascular health, and thyroid function. This has been discounted from $13,020 originally to its current price of $9,380.
These special discounted packages on cardiovascular care are only valid from August 1 to November 30 this year, and advanced booking is required, so contact Gleneagles Hospital Hong Kong now at (+852) 2122 1333 to keep your heart in the right place!