Prof Dr Wan Azman Wan Ahmad says younger people now suffer from heart diseases
KUALA LUMPUR: More younger Malaysians are now suffering from heart disease due to high cholesterol levels.
Statistics gathered by the National Cardiovascular Disease Database(NCVD) Registry also showed that Malaysians suffer from heart attacks at a younger age (mean age of 58) when compared with people in Thailand (65 years), mainland China (63 years) and Western countries (66 years).
Professor Dr Wan Azman Wan Ahmad, professor of medicine and cardiology at University Malaya Medical Centre, said a change in lifestyle routines and unhealthy dietary habits were contributing to the rise.
"Although the risk for cardiovascular diseases increases with age, in recent years, it has become common for younger people to suffer from heart diseases.
"High blood cholesterol levels, or dyslipidaemia, is prevalent among 28 per cent of Malaysians above the age of 40. Having high cholesterol puts them at a higher risk for cardiovascular diseases. The higher the blood cholesterol, the greater the risk of developing heart disease," he said in an interview.
The prevalence of high blood cholesterol levels, Dr Wan Azman said, ranged from 35 per cent when patients had acute coronary syndrome (ACS) and up to 73 per cent when they had to go for treatment (percutaneous coronary intervention).
"Although high cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, many are taking it lightly. Often it does not ring alarm bells. Only when their health is at stake that people start realising the dangers and consequences of high cholesterol," said Dr Wan Azman.
The NCVD Registry, he added, showed that more than 90 per cent of patients had at least one established cardiovascular risk factor, which included high cholesterol, diabetes and hypertension.
He also said heart diseases had been the leading cause of death in both men and women in Malaysia for the past three decades.
Consultant cardiologist Datuk Dr Khoo Kah Lin said patients who suffered from high cholesterol should change their lifestyle routines, especially if they smoked, or did not follow a healthy diet.
"It is best to quit smoking, exercise regularly, eat healthily and maintain a healthy weight. And it's important to bring low density lipoprotein cholesterol, or LDL cholesterol, to target levels via proper treatment."
Many patients, Dr Khoo said, had failed to reach their LDL cholesterol goals due to failure to take their medicine or non-aggressive treatment by their physicians. He said generally patients remained ignorant about the role of drugs in their cholesterol management.
The findings of the first Centralised Pan-Asian survey on the Under-treatment of Hypercholesterolemia Study (Cepheus), said Dr Khoo, showed that a substantial proportion of patients failed to take their medication diligently.
"About 54 per cent of the patients thought that missing a tablet once every two weeks or more would not have any effect on their cholesterol levels.
"Physicians play a role in explaining how these cholesterol-lowering drugs actually work. This will help patients understand better the necessity of taking their medication regularly and on time," said Dr Khoo.
The Cepheus study was the largest survey conducted on the current treatment status of high blood cholesterol levels (hypercholesterolemia)in Asia Pacific. It involved more than 7,000 patients from Malaysia, Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesia, Philippines, Hong Kong and Vietnam.
Only about 49 per cent of the patients participating in the Pan-Asian survey achieved their LDL-C goals.
He said despite more effective treatment available, both physicians and patients disliked changing their current method of treatment.
"A disturbing fact is that about 64 per cent of patients are still on the same lipid-lowering drug they were prescribed the first time" said Dr Khoo.
He also said anyone who had been tested and diagnosed with high LDL-C levels should seek early medical treatment.
"It is important for patients to understand their condition well and ensure that any treatment prescribed is always adhered to, regardless of whether their cholesterol levels are under control, unless otherwise advised by their doctor." - NST