Towards a healthier heart

Azlan Othman

One in two people who die from heart attack passes away within the first hour of having symptoms. Hence, every second counts.

In Brunei Darussalam, many patients experience the symptoms but they wait for too long.

At a recent Cardiovascular Forum themed ‘Our Heart Matters’ and held in conjunction with World Heart Day 2019, former heart attack patient Md Khairulamin bin Sungkai shared his experience on coping with the condition.

“One feels tired more easily when doing exercise and there is also a tendency to experience less physical strength like when hiking or taking steps.

“Before I suffered a heart attack, several signs developed months before, such as chest pain and difficulty in breathing. It was a very worrying sign for me,” he said to the forum’s audience comprising government officers and members of the public.

“Our brain is also not receiving enough oxygen, leading to dizziness, lethargy and breathlessness.

“I also felt the pain in my chest when playing football but it got better after resting for a while. These are the red flag symptoms.”

A heart healthy diet consists of vegetables, fruits and wholegrain meals, and limiting the intake of salt, saturated fats and added sugar.
Former heart attack patient Md Khairulamin bin Sungkai with medical panellists at the forum, where he shares his experience on coping with the condition. PHOTO: AZLAN OTHMAN

He continued, “It was not a pleasing gift for me to celebrate my 40th birthday with a heart attack. It is also hereditary as my father also had open heart surgery before.

“The main culprit is the food that we take. I love to eat meat and fatty food. Although I carry out physical activities, I did not look after my diet.”

Gleneagles Jerudong Park Medical Centre (Gleaneagles JPMC) stated that for a healthier heart, you don’t have to make big changes.

Seven healthy habits could save your life. If you smoke, you better quit; monitor your blood pressure and maintain a healthy weight where a body mass index (BMI) should be less than 25.

One should also aim for a cholesterol level less than 5.2 mmol/litre. It is also important to keep the fasting blood sugar level less than 6.1mmol/litre.

One should aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity of physical activities per week.

One should also have a heart healthy diet with vegetables, fruits and wholegrain meals and limiting the intake of salt, saturated fats and added sugar.

According to CardioSmart.org, heart attacks happen when the heart’s blood supply is suddenly cut off.

The signs commonly occurring in men include discomfort or tingling in arms, back, neck, shoulder and jaw.

For women, signs include sudden dizziness, heartburn-like feeling, nausea or vomitting as well unusual tiredness.

CardioSmart.org added that high cholesterol is caused by being overweight, family history, being inactive and having poor diet. It can be treated through a heart healthy diet, reducing weight, carrying out regular exercise and stopping smoking.

Lifestyle changes that can lower blood pressure include regular physical activities, focus on nutrition, cutting salt intake and aiming for 1,500mg of sodium or less per day. Losing just a few kilogrammes can also make a big difference.

Panellists comprising medical experts – Cardiothoracic Surgeon at Gleneagles JPMC Awangku Muhammad Nadzir bin Pengiran Mohd Juanda; Endocrinologist at Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital Dr Lina Chong; Cardiologist at RIPAS Hospital Dr Mohammad Ezam Emran; and Food Nutritionist at Gleneagles JPMC Nor Arfah binti Mohd Taib – also shared their views at the forum.

Chest pain is quite a common and a typical symptom but it does not mean that we have a heart attack.

“One should not be in denial and let such signs develop for a couple of months, which is quite common in the country. We have seen patients in the Sultanate coming too late for treatment,” they said.

The panellists also urged Bruneians to be physically active to reduce the risk and to watch what they eat.

“One should also stop smoking, avoid sedentary lifestyle, vaping and taking steroids. One must stay fit and healthy,” they said.

“There is nothing in life that is without risk. The older you are, the higher the risk of getting heart disease.

“Males have a higher risk compared to females, but for females, it poses a greater risk once they reach menopause.”