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Heart ailments increase among Asian population, cardiologist says

Go for BP and cholesterol check up in your twenties, cardiologist advises

Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: More than 90 per cent of deaths occurring during sleep are most likely “sudden cardiac arrests”, Dr Joseph Kurian, head of the Cardiology Department at Lifeline Hospital in Abu Dhabi, told Gulf News yesterday.

It could be due to “brugada syndrome” that causes “rhythm abnormality of the heart”. It is very common among the Asian population, especially of the Indian sub-continent - India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Kurian said. Although it is mainly seen in middle-aged men, many young people have been diagnosed with this problem.

“I have many Bangladeshi heart patients in their 20s. My youngest heart patient is a 17-year-old Indian schoolboy,” the doctor said.

Brugada syndrome is a new entity found in the last one decade and it has a familial tendency also. Chances of having a heart attack are higher if the patient’s family has a history of cardiac problems, he said.

“Although there was no symptoms at all and the patient looked all right, undetected predisposing factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol that are silent killers must have played a role in such deaths,” Dr Kurian said.

The first manifestation of such factors could be sudden death, he said.

He said the normal protocol check-up for blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes is not just meant for middle-aged people. The latest medical findings suggest that it should start in the twenties, especially for the Asian population, considered vulnerable to brugada syndrome.

Such lifestyle diseases are on the decline in the West whereas they are increasing among the Asian population due to changing food habits, lack of exercise and increasing mental stress.

“One should go for such tests earlier if he or she has a family history of such diseases. Even if those youngsters don’t find any problems in the first check-up, they should recheck it after five years.”

“I had a Filipino heart patient whose father and brother died of sudden cardiac arrest in their forties and thirties respectively,” Dr Kurian said.




Difference between heart attack and cardiac arrest

People often use these terms interchangeably, but they are not the same. A heart attack is when blood flow to the heart is blocked, and sudden cardiac arrest is when the heart malfunctions and suddenly stops beating unexpectedly. A heart attack is a “circulation” problem and sudden cardiac arrest is an “electrical” problem.

What is a heart attack?

A heart attack occurs when a blocked artery prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching a section of the heart. If the blocked artery is not reopened quickly, the part of the heart normally nourished by that artery begins to die. The longer a person goes without treatment, the greater the damage. Symptoms of a heart attack may be immediate and intense. More often, though, symptoms start slowly and persist for hours, days or weeks before a heart attack. Unlike with sudden cardiac arrest, the heart usually does not stop beating during a heart attack.

What is cardiac arrest?

Sudden cardiac arrest occurs suddenly and often without warning. It is triggered by an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). With its pumping action disrupted, the heart cannot pump blood to the brain, lungs and other organs. Seconds later, a person loses consciousness and has no pulse. Death occurs within minutes if the victim does not receive treatment.

What is the link?

These two distinct heart conditions are linked. Sudden cardiac arrest can occur after a heart attack, or during recovery. Heart attacks increase the risk for sudden cardiac arrest. Most heart attacks do not lead to sudden cardiac arrest. But when sudden cardiac arrest occurs, heart attack is a common cause. Other heart conditions may also disrupt the heart’s rhythm and lead to sudden cardiac arrest.


What to do: Heart Attack

Even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, don’t wait more than five minutes to call your emergency response number. Emergency medical services staff can begin treatment when they arrive. They are also trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped.

What to do: Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac arrest is reversible in most victims if it’s treated within a few minutes. First, call the emergency medical services. Then get an automated external defibrillator if one is available and use it as soon as it arrives. Begin CPR immediately and continue until professional emergency medical services arrive. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is an emergency procedure, performed in an effort to manually preserve intact brain function until further measures are taken to restore spontaneous blood circulation and breathing in a person in cardiac arrest.

Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death – nearly 400,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur annually in the United States.