Reckon you are too young for a heart attack? Think again


HEART attack has been the leading cause of death in Malaysia for the past 17 years and research indicates that heart disease, often associated with old age, is increasingly occurring in younger people.

“From a young age, our lifestyles play a role in our cardiovascular health.

“There is no one single cause for heart disease but rather many factors, when coupled together, increase the chances of developing the condition, ” said Pantai Hospital Ampang consultant cardiologist Dr Nandakumar Ramakrishnan.

Risk factors

Dr Nandakumar pointed out that family history and genetics play a contributing role in determining the likelihood of heart disease.

“Other risk factors that are modifiable are blood pressure, smoking, cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, stress, and diet.

“The more risk factors you have would translate to higher chances of having a heart attack.”

Early signs

Not all heart problems come with clear warning signs but there are some common symptoms to watch out for like chest pain or discomfort.

“Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the centre or left side of the chest. The discomfort is often described as uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.

Family history and genetics play a contributing role in determining the likelihood of heart disease, said Dr Nandakumar.Family history and genetics play a contributing role in determining the likelihood of heart disease, said Dr Nandakumar.

“You feel weak, light-headed, or faint, and may also break out into a cold sweat.

“Other early signs include shortness of breath and pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, back, left arm, or shoulder, ” shared Dr Nandakumar.

Risks in delayed treatment

The amount of time it takes to receive treatment and the area of damage will determine the long-term effects on your heart.

“When a heart attack occurs, it can disrupt your heart’s normal rhythm, potentially stopping it altogether and causing a sudden cardiac arrest. These abnormal rhythms are known as arrhythmias.

“When your heart stops getting a supply of blood during the heart attack, some of the heart muscle tissue can die.

“This can weaken the heart and subsequently cause life-threatening conditions such as heart failure, ” explained Dr Nandakumar, adding that heart attacks can also affect heart valves and cause leaks.

Available treatments

A heart attack occurs when a blockage in one or more coronary arteries reduces or stops blood flow to the heart, which starves part of the heart muscle of oxygen.

With each minute after a heart attack, more heart tissue deteriorates or dies. Therefore, restoring blood flow quickly helps prevent heart damage.

Pantai Hospital Ampang is equipped with an experienced cardiac team and the latest cardiac catheterisation lab to provide a wide array of heart care services.Pantai Hospital Ampang is equipped with an experienced cardiac team and the latest cardiac catheterisation lab to provide a wide array of heart care services.

“The type of heart attack determines the treatment that a patient will undergo.

“Thrombolysis involves a clot-busting medicine to dissolve the blood clot that is blocking the coronary artery.

“Coronary angioplasty re-opens the blocked coronary artery by inserting one or more stents. This helps to keep the narrowed artery open.

“Meanwhile, coronary bypass surgery helps to restore normal blood flow by using a blood vessel from the leg, arm, or chest in your heart to bypass the blocked artery, ” said Dr Nandakumar.

Prevention is better than cure

No matter the age, taking care of your heart not only protects you and your heart now but also helps ensure a longer, healthier life.

“Monitor risk factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure, sugar and weight. Start paying attention to it in your 20s and you should monitor every five years and annually if you are above 35.

“Exercise at least 30 minutes daily and eat a healthy diet high in plant-based foods and low in red meat. Keep to a healthy weight and reduce weight if necessary.

“Stay away from any kind of smoking, including e-cigarettes, which have been linked to arterial stiffness, higher blood pressure, and an increased heart rate.

“Stress is unavoidable even when you are young but maintaining a positive attitude, exercising, and meditation are good ways to deal with stress and keep your heart healthy, ” said Dr Nandakumar, adding that knowing your family history could tip doctors off in diagnosis.

“It is never too late to start a programme of good nutrition and regular exercise, and it is never too early.”

Pantai Hospital Ampang is equipped with an experienced cardiac team and the latest cardiac catheterisation lab to provide a wide array of heart care services including preventive care (heart-screening), diagnostic services (coronoary angiogram and CT angiogram) and treatments (coronary angioplasty and pacemaker implantation). Its cardiac team is also on 24-hour standby to provide life-saving diagnosis and emergency treatments for patients with acute heart attacks.

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