According to statistics from the Hong Kong Department of Health, in 2020, there were as many as 6,561 deaths caused by heart disease1. Many young people may stay up late or indulge in excessive eating and drinking as they think that their bodies are capable of doing so. However, as they engage in such behaviour, they are unknowingly triggering the ticking time bomb of coronary heart disease.
In recent years, the number of cases of coronary heart diseases and deaths related to it has been increasing. The number of coronary heart diseases cases has even exceeded other types of heart diseases2. There has also been an increasing trend of young people getting diagnosed with coronary heart disease. Our lifestyle habits, dietary habits and aging are some factors which affect our risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease. In this article we will learn about some symptoms of heart disease and how critical illness insurance can protect you financially.
What is coronary heart disease?
Coronary heart disease, which is also known as coronary artery disease, is a condition where the coronary arteries narrow or become blocked. The coronary arteries supply the necessary oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle. This blockage or narrowing of the arteries is usually a result of the accumulation of fat on the inner walls of the arteries, damaging the myocardium and eventually resulting in coronary heart disease.
Some conditions that could result from coronary heart disease could include angina and heart attack. A severe heart attack could result in abnormal heartbeats and even death. This is why it is important to know how to reduce the possibility of developing the disease, and not just its prevention and treatment.
Causes of coronary heart disease
The increasing number of cases of coronary heart disease among younger people is closely related to their modern urban lifestyle. This includes an unhealthy diet, high mental strength, and lack of exercise due to long working hours. Other factors like obesity, smoking and genetics can also induce coronary heart disease3.
Symptoms of coronary heart disease
Coronary heart disease usually develops slowly across several years and is often overlooked, with some patients not displaying any symptoms of coronary heart disease1. As many of the symptoms of the disease are dismissed as normal, many do not realise that they may be suffering from it. Some examples of such symptoms include chest tightness and shortness of breath during exercise. This could be a sign of blocked heart vessels. In serious cases, individuals may experience chest pains, dizziness, or even a sudden onset of heart disease. Thus, you should remain vigilant if you experience any of the following symptoms:
Angina is a type of chest tightness or pain which is occasionally accompanied by breathing difficulties and shortness of breath due to a blockage of blood supply to the arteries in the heart. It usually takes place when the patient is angry or walking and could also be triggered by the weather or what they ate. Those who have angina tend to have a higher risk of sudden heart disease.
Severe pain at the central position of the chest which can feel like severe indigestion is a common symptom of a heart attack. The symptoms of myocardial infarction, also known as a heart attack, can either occur suddenly or take place gradually over time.
Patients may experience palpitations, which are trembling or pounding heartbeat and even irregular heartbeats. Although palpitations are a symptom of coronary heart disease, this feeling of discomfort in the heart is rather common and may not always be a cause for but this feeling of discomfort in the heart is common and does not need to lead to unwarranted anxiety.
Heart failure occurs when the heart loses its ability to pump blood to various parts of the body. Coronary heart disease causes the heart function to weaken slowly, leading to heart failure. Some common symptoms of heart failure are shortness of breath, swelling of the feet and fatigue.
What health checks should you do if you feel discomfort in the heart?
Although coronary heart disease is not an immediate threat to your life, you should let your guard down if you experience any of the symptoms above. If you suspect that you have coronary heart disease, you should immediately check with your doctor. Your doctor will likely get you to take one of the following tests for the appropriate diagnosis.
- Blood tests
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)
- Cardiac catheterization
- Nuclear stress test
- Chest X-ray
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Electrophysiological examination
If you think that you may be suffering from a heart problem, you could consider going for a comprehensive heart check-up. During this diagnosis stage, you may already be required to pay for heart disease testing fees such as coronary angiography. The cost of such tests is not cheap and could amount to HK$10,000 or more. Even though the costs of checkups may not be cheap, going for such checkups is important as early detection is the key to prevention. Avoiding potential risks would be the best way to cope with the economic burden which suffering from heart disease may bring about.
What should you do if you have heart problems? Here are three major treatments for coronary heart disease3:
- Drug therapy: Anti-ischemic treatment, anti-thrombotic treatment, and antiplatelet therapy are some of the main treatments for coronary heart disease.
- Interventional therapy: Interventional therapy involves using minimally invasive procedures to open blocked arteries and improve blood flow. Some examples of such procedures include stent implantation and angioplasty.
- Coronary artery bypass surgery: A surgical procedure involving the creation of a new route for blood to flow around a blocked or narrowed artery in the heart.
Drug therapy for coronary heart disease mainly involves anti-ischemic therapy to reverse or delay the advancement of coronary artery vascular disease. It also helps in improving the heart’s function and treating other ischemic-related complications.
Antiplatelet drugs, such as aspirin may be prescribed by doctors to help protect the heart and prevent a heart attack. Such heart medications may also be used to lower one’s heart load and manage the conditions of those with coronary heart disease. Doctors may also prescribe cholesterol-lowering drugs to reduce the chance of atherosclerosis. It is essential to seek advice from your doctor before taking any medications.
Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI)
PCI, also known as the “stent” surgery involves the use of catheter technology to insert a coronary artery stent together with a balloon into the blocked heart blood vessel. The balloon will help to open up the blocked blood vessel, expanding it to increase blood flow. This coronary artery stent will ensure the blood vessel channel is maintained. The cost of such surgeries in private hospitals is approximately HK$100,000 to HK$300,000, while the cost of it in a public hospital is approximately HK$40,000 to HK$80,000, depending on the cost of consumables such as the balloon and stent4.
Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG)
CABG, also known as "bypass surgery," is a procedure that involves the creation of a new bypass for blood to flow from other parts of the patient’s body such as blood vessels from their leg to their own heart. By doing so, the narrow coronary artery is bypassed, allowing more blood to be supplied to the heart. As bypass surgery is a highly invasive large-scale surgery, the recovery time is usually much longer.
How can you protect yourself from high medical expenses for chronic diseases?
With the advancements in medical technology, there are many new types of technologies that can help in slowing the progression of diseases. However, the cost of medical care is also increasing gradually. Some high expenses items associated with coronary heart disease include surgery fees, treatment fees and examination fees.
Coronary heart disease is a severe medical condition that requires early treatment and recovery. Additionally, patients with this condition may face many post-operative expenses, such as prolonged period of unemployment, and the need for extended periods of care and medical expenses. This could bring about a significant amount of economic burden on patients as well as their families.