Many heart attacks are not as dramatic as what you see on TV. In reality, there are people who present with minimal or no symptoms at all when they are having a heart attack.
Heart disease is the second most common cause of death in Singapore. Many people are unaware of their heart disease until they suffer a stroke or a heart attack. By the time that happens, it may already be too late for some of them.
According to Dr Alfred Cheng, cardiologist from Mount Elizabeth Hospital, as many as 70% of people with severe heart problems don’t experience any symptoms. Dr Cheng shares with us some details regarding this ‘silent killer’.
Heart disease used to affect mostly men over 60 years old. Now, it is not uncommon in their 40s to suffer from heart problems. Even people in their late 20s are starting to have heart problems. One of Dr Cheng’s patients was only 27 years old! This man had a major heart attack while exercising, and he had to perform an emergency procedure on him. The only risk factor the man had was smoking.
Even women are at risk. There is an increased chance of heart attacks after menopause. This is because they are no longer protected by their female hormones like oestrogen, which helps reduce bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol.
Take a good look at your heart
It is recommended that those above 40 years old should go for regular check-ups with a cardiologist every year or so. This will not prevent heart disease from happening, but it can nip the problem in the bud before it becomes serious.
Mr Tan, a marketing manager in his early 40s, knows that he may have an increased risk of getting heart disease due to his heavy smoking habits. He therefore decided to do a health screening which includes a treadmill test that helps to detect coronary artery disease, an ECG to detect any abnormalities or disorders in the heart rhythm, and an echocardiography to detect any structural abnormalities. Blood tests are also used to check for high cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar.
Fortunately for him, the results did not reveal any abnormalities. But for those whose check-up reveal abnormalities, a computed tomography (CT) scan would then be the next step. This scan is able to detect any blockages or narrowing of the heart arteries.
Signs and symptoms of heart problems
The signs and symptoms of heart attack are not as obvious in women as it is in men. For men, they usually feel tightness across their chest. They often also feel breathless and they perspire profusely. Women experience symptoms which are vaguer, including sweating, breathlessness or dizziness. And in older women, they may have no symptoms at all. They may just feel unwell and more tired than usual.
If you have any of these symptoms, you may be having a heart attack. It is better to be safe than sorry and see a doctor if you experience such symptoms.
And even if one is diagnosed with heart disease, it is not the end of the world. Making lifestyle changes such as giving up smoking and high cholesterol foods, exercising regularly and taking medications as prescribed by a cardiologist can control the progress of heart disease.
Of course, prevention is better than cure, so live a healthier life today.
Publication of article by courtesy of Dr Alfred Cheng, Cardiologist from Mount Elizabeth Hospital.