Health Experts Concerned over Alarming Surge in Cardiovascular Disease Cases

Cardiovascular Disease

The increasing prevalence of cardiovascular disease in Malaysia is a major concern, with the average age of patients undergoing coronary angioplasty being approximately 57 years, compared to 71 years in Japan, according to Dr. Tan Lay Koon, a senior consultant cardiologist and director of Women’s Cardiology at the National Heart Institute (NHI).

“This significantly younger age group compared to Japan is worrying. Malaysian patients are presenting with coronary conditions at a much earlier age,” Dr. Tan stated. In 2022, cardiovascular mortality accounted for 16.1% of all certified deaths in Malaysia, totalling 20,322, with around 8% of hospitalizations in both government and private hospitals attributed to cardiovascular diseases.

The data indicates a troubling increase in cardiovascular morbidity and mortality over the years, with the exception of 2021, when deaths from COVID-19 surpassed those from cardiovascular disease. In 2021, cardiovascular disease caused 13.7% of deaths, compared to 17% in 2020 and 15% in 2019.

Dr. Tan attributed this rising trend to an ageing population and the increasing prevalence of risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol levels amid a growingly overweight population. She emphasized the gender disparity in cardiovascular disease diagnosis and treatment, noting that only about 17% of patients undergoing coronary angioplasty were women.

“This lower figure is likely because women with coronary artery disease often have non-obstructive lesions, which do not necessitate coronary angioplasty,” Dr. Tan explained. She also pointed out that there is an under-diagnosis and under-treatment of women, stemming from a lack of awareness and the perceived low incidence of cardiovascular disease among them.

The National Cardiovascular Disease Database from 2019 to 2020 underscores the need for increased awareness and tailored healthcare approaches for women. “Health screening programs like the NHI Wellness Programme aim to detect and treat cardiovascular risk factors early, thus preventing the progression to more severe conditions such as heart attacks or heart failure,” Dr. Tan said.

She highlighted that the NHI Women’s Clinic, one of the few in the country, strives to raise awareness of cardiovascular disease in women and provides specific risk stratification and tailored treatment to meet the needs of this group.

Dr. Tan also noted that advancements in medical technology have significantly improved patient outcomes. New drug classes for treating diabetes mellitus, hypercholesterolemia, and heart failure have greatly enhanced the quality of life and extended life expectancy compared to a decade ago. Additionally, newer technologies and devices now offer non-surgical correction of valvular heart disease, avoiding the need for conventional open-heart surgery.

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