5 heart health questions answered by cardiologists

What can we do to improve our heart health?

01 Feb 2023
5 heart health questions answered by cardiologists

In 2020, heart diseases accounted for almost 1 in 3 deaths in Singapore. A sobering statistic indeed! Our hearts work endlessly, to keep us going at every moment of our lives. Rather than taking this for granted, it’s important to make healthy choices so that we can help our hearts stay healthy and strong.

We speak to Dr Michael MacDonald, a cardiologist from Mount Elizabeth Hospitals who has been practising as a consultant since 2013, to find out more about what we can do to improve our heart health.

When should I see a Cardiologist?

A cardiologist treats patients who are suffering from diseases and problems relating to the heart and blood vessels. “You should see a cardiologist if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, as they could be a sign of more serious health condition:

  • Chest pain and shortness of breath
  •  Fatigue and often feeling tired
  • Swelling of your legs
  • Heart palpitations, which is when it feels like your heart is beating too rapidly.

Any of these symptoms may be a possible sign of heart disease and heart failure. Consulting a cardiologist early ensures that you can detect and treat any existing health condition before it worsens.

What are the most common conditions you have seen in Singaporeans, and what can we do about it?

“Diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are common health issues I’ve seen amongst Singaporeans,” Dr Michael shares. In the recent years, he has noticed that patients are developing these chronic conditions – also known as the “Three Highs” – at an increasingly earlier age.

“What’s worrying is that these conditions are usually asymptomatic and may be unnoticed by the individual. However, they increase your risk of heart attack and stroke, if left untreated for a prolonged period.”

To keep your heart healthy for longer, Dr Michael recommends:

  • “First, go for health screenings routinely, so that you’re aware of your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
  • Second, proactively make healthier lifestyle changes to lower your risk of developing any health conditions. For example, eating less salt, sugar and processed food or being more active, if you’re leading a sedentary lifestyle.”

How much does family history affect our risk of heart disease?

 “Family history is very important,” emphasises Dr Michael. “If you have male relatives who have had heart issues before the age of 55 or female relatives who have had heart issues before the age of 65, you may be at higher risk of developing heart issues as well.”

As such, if your family has a history of heart conditions, it is essential to go for routine health screenings, that includes an examination of your heart health.

Does being overweight affect our heart health?

“Being overweight directly increases your risk of heart disease and stroke,” says Dr Michael. This is because being overweight can result in fatty material clogging up your arteries. Such creates greater strain on your heart, as it must work harder to pump blood around your body.

“Additionally, being overweight increases your risk of the “Three Highs”, which also puts you at greater risk of having heart issues.”

Before starting on your weight loss journey, speak to a doctor to put together an achievable action plan. This ensures that you don’t overstrain your body, while making sure you’re losing weight in a healthy and sustainable way.

What’s one piece of advice you’d like to give to your patients?

Dr Michael keeps it short and simple – “Look after your body, you only get one!”

And it is never too late to start cultivating good habits at any age – you’ll be surprised how much better you’ll feel immediately, when you prioritise your health!

Taking care of your heart can start with small lifestyle changes, such as eating a balanced diet and moving more during the week. What’s more important is to be consistent about incorporating these healthy changes in your routine.

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This article is written by Dr Michael Macdonald, Cardiologist at Mount Elizabeth and Gleneagles Hospitals, in collaboration with Doctor Anywhere.

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