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Heart Disease Incidence

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are a broad group of diseases which affect the heart and blood vessels resulting in ischemic heart disease and stroke. Some common heart diseases in Malaysia include coronary/ischemic heart disease, heart valve disease, heart failure and heart arrhythmia. It is the nation's number one cause of mortality, killing more people than traffic accidents.

Looking at the Statistics

According to national statistics, ischemic heart disease accounted for 17% of the 109,155 medically verified deaths in 2020. This totals 18,515 deaths, with 12,707 male victims and 5,808 female victims. The National Heart Institute (NHI) found that the number of cardiovascular disease (CVD) cases increases by 5% annually, with 10,000 cases of cardiology and hypertension and 4,000 cases of heart surgery in one year.

Recent studies have shown that Malaysians have a growing prevalence of being diagnosed with heart disease at a younger age than before. One study found that the average age of Malaysians having Acute Cardiovascular Syndrome (ACS) was between 55.9 to 59,1 years, compared to the average of age 63.4 to 68 in more developed countries.

What Puts You At Risk?

According to the Heart Foundation of Malaysia, there are 4 major modifiable risk factors of CVD:

  1. Cigarette/tobacco smoke - According to data from WHO, smoking determines 10% of all cardiovascular diseases.

  2. High blood cholesterol

  3. High blood pressure

  4. Physical inactivity

  5. Others e.g. diabetes mellitus & obesity

The Foundation strongly urges all Malaysians to control their modifiable risk factors such as those with angina to take episodes of chest pain seriously and see their doctor before their atherosclerosis leads to a heart attack. Angina is a pain in the chest when your heart gets insufficient blood due to a blockage in one (or more) of the coronary arteries. It is a signal of a possible heart attack. Atherosclerosis is the thickening or hardening of the arteries due to a plaque buildup in its inner lining.

Observing the Symptoms

Heart attacks are particularly worrying. Not all heart problems come with clear warning signs and it is not always easy to tell what is going on. Look out for these warning bells if you belong in the high-risk category as stated above:

  • Chest discomfort

  • Nausea, indigestion, heartburn or stomach pain

  • Pain that spreads to the arm

  • Throat or jaw pain

  • Snoring

  • A continuous cough

  • Sweating

  • Dizziness or light-headedness

  • Swollen legs

  • Irregular heartbeat

Lowering Your Risk

Humans only have 1 heart and heart disease is incurable. We should take good care of our hearts to prevent heart disease by making some simple changes to our lifestyles.

  1. Have a healthy diet - This is an easily achievable way to maintain a healthy body and curb the risk of CVD. A healthy diet consists of nutritious fruits and vegetables and moderate amounts of protein-rich foods like fish and meat. Avoid greasy, salty, sugary and highly processed food to control blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

  2. Regular physical activity - A regular exercise routine helps lower blood pressure, reduces body fat and helps in cardiac output. Start small, with at least 30 minutes of daily exercise. You could incorporate habits like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and walking to lunch in your daily routine.

  3. Get enough sleep - Try to get a full 7-8 hours of sleep each night. This helps lower blood pressure, indirectly helping to lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. Studies have shown that those with sleep disorders and insomnia are more prone to heart disease.

  4. Manage your stress levels - The World Heart Federation states that psychological stress can double the risk of having a heart attack. Practice meditation, or take part in other relaxing activities to lower stress levels and cardiovascular risk.

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