Improper care exposes Indians to heart diseases

Venkat Raman –

Health experts, including specialists and visiting medical practitioners have said that South Asians in general and Indians in particular in New Zealand are susceptible to diabetes leading to other complications.

Cardiovascular diseases are also common among this section of the population but early detection can influence early cure, says, Dr Albert Ko, an Interventional Cardiologist based at Ascot Hospital in Greenlane, Auckland.

He also meets patients referred by General Practitioners (GPs) by prior appointment at his satellite clinics in Botany (East Care Specialists), Papakura (Counties Care), Pukekohe (Seddon Medical) and Browns Bay (Shore Care North Cross).

Unhealthy contributors

“Lifestyle, unhealthy food, eating habits, stress at work and home and genetic factors are all contributors to the diseases of the heart. While prevention is always better than cure, much hardship can be avoided or minimised through early detection and treatment. Regular exercise and periodic visits to GPs are important,” he said, during an interview with Indian Newslink.

Although life expectancy is on the rise in New Zealand, prompting the government to propose legislation on lifting the retiring age to 67, diabetes, diseases of the heart, obesity and the resultant complications are becoming major health and social issues.

Heart-rending statistics

According to the Heart Foundation, about 172,000 people (one in 20 adults) are living with heart disease in New Zealand, 33% of deaths are caused by cardiovascular disease and every 90 minutes, one person dies of heart disease.

Dr Ko said that heart diseases affect both men and women, although men outnumber women in undergoing Angioplasty, a procedure that unblocks blood vessels, allowing easier and better blood flow in arteries.

A Mayo Clinic (a nonprofit medical research group based in Rochester, Minnesota) Study in 2008 showed that contrary to popular opinion, women do just as well after artery-unclogging procedures, dispelling the earlier thinking of doctors that angioplasty and stents work better in men.

“As it turns out, women have been doing as well as men for more than a decade. But the widespread assumption that women do worse after angioplasty means that women account for only 30% of the one million artery-opening procedures performed each year in the US. This is despite the fact that heart disease is the Number 1 killer of women,” the study said.

The Procedure

During angioplasty, a catheter is threaded through an artery into a plaque-narrowed area and a balloon is inflated to widen the artery. Usually, a mesh tube called a ‘Stent’ is used to prop open the artery. Doctors use the term ‘Percutaneous Coronary Intervention’ (PCI) to refer to heart procedures in which catheters are threaded into heart arteries.

“Women are less likely to be referred that men for invasive procedures, including coronary angiography and PCI. Raising awareness among physicians will help us overcome this referral bias. The decision to refer a patient should not be influenced by gender,” Dr Ko said.

He said that Angioplasty is a low-risk procedure and yet many of us ignore it.

“Angioplasty carries minimal risk with only one in 1000 patients dying during the procedure. This is a minor procedure which does not often require hospitalisation of more than one day. In some cases, patients are returned home the same day,” Dr Ko said.

He said that five major factors influence heart-related diseases. They include family history, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetics and smoking.

“Indians from Fiji carry a higher risk of coronary problems, with nine out of 10 requiring intervention. Diabetes strikes them and hence they should exercise caution. We specialists do not see any patient directly. It is therefore imperative that they go for regular medical check-up. Education is important to raise awareness,” Dr Ko said.

A Warning

Angioplasty has become a routine process for people with blockages but a Heart Foundation communication has warned that as with all medical procedures, there are both risks and benefits associated with angioplasty.

“Talk to your doctor, nurse and other health professional about the risks and benefits for you, and any concerns you may have. Your healthcare team can give you more information about your individual circumstances and level of risk,” the Foundation website says.

Following angioplasty, some people may develop complications including bleeding under the skin at the wound site.

“This should improve after a few days, but please contact your GP if you are concerned. It is common to have a bruise from the catheter for a few weeks. Some people may develop allergy to the contrast dye used, causing symptoms such as a rash. You should discuss any allergies that you have with your cardiologist before having the procedure.”

Additional Reading: Our Editorial, ‘Indians should not ignore health warnings’ under Viewlink on Page 12 and ‘Cardiologist opens his heart to Fijians’ under Fijilink.



There is nothing like opening your heart to your GP: Dr Albert Ko at his Ascot Hospital Clinic

A fistful of life: The Human heart beats 100,800 times a day!

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