Heart disease is a leading killer in Singapore, which is why it’s more important than ever to protect your heart. When your heart is healthy you have a reduced risk of developing serious problems such as heart attack and stroke. A healthy heart also means better blood circulation and a well-functioning cardiovascular system overall.
Dr Peter Yan, Senior Consultant Interventional Cardiologist at Gleneagles and Mount Elizabeth Hospitals, and Medical Director at WL&H (Wellness Lifestyle & Health Medical Group) and WL&H Clinic @ Shaw Centre, shares his expert advice for looking after this vital organ.
Q: How prevalent is heart disease in Singapore?
Dr Yan: In 2020, the combination of heart and hypertensive disease was the second major cause of death in Singapore, accounting for 25.5% of all deaths. Heart and hypertensive diseases showed an increased prevalence of 2.1% from 2019 to 2020. The prevalence of heart attack (myocardial infarction) has also risen by approximately 18% over the last decade (2010-2019).
Q: Are certain lifestyle habits or risks more linked to heart disease?
Dr Yan: Yes, they include:
- Physical inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle
- Eating an unhealthy diet high in trans fats, saturated fats, sugary foods, refined carbohydrates and sodium
- Excessive snacking and binge eating
- Staying and working in a high-stress environment without proper stress management intervention
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Sleep deprivation, insufficient sleep and sleep disorders
- Excessive exposure to noise and air pollution
Q: If heart disease runs in my family, am I at risk of developing it too, even if I follow a healthy lifestyle?
Dr Yan: Coronary heart disease, a leading cause of heart attack, stroke and heart failure, can run in families. Your risk may be high if you have a family history of premature coronary artery disease – for example, if a primary or first-degree relative was diagnosed with the disease or had a heart attack before age 55 if he is male (like your father or brother) or before age 65 if she is female (like your mother or sister).
There’s also a risk if you have familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), an inherited lipid disorder where the liver finds it hard to break down cholesterol in the body. This leads to extremely high levels of “bad” or LDL cholesterol in the blood. FH can be very severe or less severe depending on the type of genetic inheritance.
Other inherited heart diseases include other inherited lipid disorders, congenital structural heart diseases, cardiomyopathies (leading to heart failure and sudden death), and arrhythmias.
Q: Are some foods better than others when it comes to protecting the heart?
Dr Yan: Yes, according to the US Dietary Association (USDA) and the American Heart Association (AHA), they include fruits (especially whole fruits), vegetables, whole grains, healthy proteins like cold water fish, poultry, legumes, soy products, and fat-free and low-fat dairy products.
Here are some healthy eating tips to get you started.
Q: How does our emotional wellbeing relate to our risk of developing heart disease?
Dr Yan: Positive thinking, being optimistic and happy, and having a sense of purpose, gratitude and life satisfaction are all associated with a lower risk of developing heart disease.
Positive psychological wellbeing also supports the achievement of the AHA’s proposed definition of the seven components of ideal cardiovascular health, namely, healthy diet, physical activity, abstinence from tobacco, normal body mass index, and favourable blood pressure, total cholesterol and glucose. These have all been prospectively linked with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality as well as lower incidence of many chronic diseases of ageing.
Q: How can regular exercise help in heart disease prevention?
Dr Yan: Inadequate physical activity is known to be an independent risk factor for the premature development of coronary heart disease, obesity and diabetes mellitus. There are many health benefits of regular exercise, including an improvement in cardio-respiratory and general physical fitness; an increase in “good” HDL cholesterol and a lowering of LDL cholesterol; a reduction in blood pressure; reduction or prevention of obesity; and a reduction in inflammation and therefore a lower risk of atherosclerosis (the deposition of cholesterol plaques within the walls of the arteries).
Ideally, you’d want to do at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week, 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise a week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity exercise spread over a week.
Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity and that involve all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms), two or more days a week, as these activities provide additional health benefits.
Note: Please consult your GP or physician before starting on a new diet or exercise plan.
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For terms and conditions, information and contact details, visit www.safra.sg/promotions/healthcare-products-and-services
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