Society warns on heart disease

RISK FACTORS::After a rise in heart-related health problems, the group said that people should avoid unhealthy lifestyles, while high-risk groups should be regularly monitored

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Sun, May 19, 2013 - Page 3

Acute coronary syndrome (ACS), which is typically associated with hypertension, hyperlipidemia and hyperglycemia, is being increasingly reported in young people due to factors such as stress, staying up late, smoking and drug abuse, the Taiwan Society of Cardiology said.

ACS, the umbrella term for conditions whereby the heart’s blood supply is suddenly blocked, includes the more commonly known conditions of heart attacks and angina.

The organization, which is holding its annual convention this weekend, also said that patients who have experienced myocardial infarctions, or heart attacks, no matter what the cause, would require long-term anti-platelet therapy, which has seen major breakthroughs with new, faster-acting drugs leading to fewer deaths from heart attacks.

Taiwan Society of Cardiology secretary-general Yin Wei-hsian (殷偉賢) said that 60 percent of patients who suffer strokes and heart attacks are exposed to similar risk factors, and those with a first-degree male relative who has suffered a heart attack before the age of 55, or a first-degree female relative having one before the age of 65 are also at high risk of developing heart disease.

People in these high-risk groups should regularly have their blood pressure and blood lipid levels checked, Yin said.

Cardiologists are also reporting an increase in cases of coronary artery spasm, a kind of myocardial infarction, with a particularly high incidence rate in middle-aged women, the society said.

“The causes of heart attacks or coronary artery spasms in comparatively young people are very different from typical cases of myocardial infarction,” said attending physician Chen Jaw-wen (陳肇文) of the Cardiology Division at Taipei Veterans General Hospital.

“Constant stimulation from stress, long-term sleep deprivation, smoking and alcohol and drug abuse can result in a sudden narrowing of one of the coronary arteries,” Chen added.

Yin said that patients who have experienced a heart attack, be it caused by the “three highs” — hypertension, hyperlipidemia and hyperglycemia — or by artery spasms, require anti-platelet medications to prevent blood clots.

“The new drug ticagrelor has been found to work more consistently across a variety of groups. Treatment with clopidogrel, the previous drug used, has no effect on 30 percent of patients. Reduced metabolism of clopidogrel, for example, is common in Asian people,” said Andrew Wilson, associate professor of the department of Cardiology at the University of Melbourne, who was a speaker at the conference.

“The new drug will be available and covered by National Health Insurance from next month,” Yin said.