Coronary Heart Disease is the number one cause of death in Malaysia. It constitutes about 23% or almost one out of four deaths every year, no thanks to our unconditional love for high-fat, high-cholesterol Malaysian food and sedentary lifestyles.
In fact, the numbers show that one is twice as likely to die from a heart attack than any form of cancer. To ensure you don't fall into this rather scary bracket, let's take the time to understand heart attacks a little better.
What is a Heart Attack?
Coronary Heart Disease is caused by a number of mostly lifestyle-related factors, including an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, being overweight and smoking. It happens when plaque, a waxy substance, is built-up within your blood vessels. This limits the flow of blood to your heart muscles, a condition popularly known as atherosclerosis.
Over time, this will cause your blood vessels to become narrow or worse, blocked. At this stage, your heart may no longer function efficiently. A heart attack happens when the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a section of heart muscle suddenly becomes blocked and the heart can’t get oxygen.
At this point, part of the heart begins to die, and you’ll feel severe chest aches. This is called a heart attack. It even may be triggered if you were to exert yourself by running, doing heavy work or suddenly become stressed due to work or emotions. Worse case scenario, it could happen without any warning.
How is a Heart Attack Diagnosed?
Symptoms of a heart attack include:
- Pain in the chest, arm or below the breastbone.
- Discomfort in the back, jaw, throat or arm.
- Difficulty when breathing, shortness of breath.
- Feeling of heartburn, indigestion, or choking.
- Sweating, nausea, vomiting or dizziness.
- Extreme weakness, anxiety, and irregular heartbeat.
If you are admitted to a hospital (God forbid), there are a few ways they can tell whether you’ve just had a heart attack:
- Electrocardiogram or ECG, the thing that goes “beep, beep, beep…” can show if there’s any damage to your heart muscle and where it has occurred.
- A blood test that measures enzymes and indicates heart muscle damage.
What should you do if you suspect having a heart attack?
In the event of a heart attack, it’s important to lessen the amount of damage to your heart. If you experience some of the symptoms listed above, you should call for an ambulance or have someone get you to the hospital immediately.
The best time to treat a heart attack is within one to two hours from the start of the symptoms. Unless you’re a Marvel superhero, waiting is not an option.
What is the treatment for heart attack?
Treatment begins immediately after a heart attack is diagnosed. Drugs such as heparin or warfarin and surgical procedures are used to treat a heart attack. The goals of the treatment are to break up or prevent blood clots, and to stabilise the plaque.
These medications must be given as soon as possible, preferably within 2 hours from the start of the attack, to reduce the amount of damage.
Which insurance policies cover heart attacks?
Most Critical Illness insurance cover the medical costs incurred due to a heart attack or other serious Coronary Artery Disease. These include Heart Valve Surgery, Surgery to Aorta, Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery and Angioplasty.
Critical Illness plans basically pay out lump-sum payments to the insured, so as to use as an income replacement, or for medical treatment. On the other hand, medical insurance plans, which some people just refer to as 'medical cards', help cover hospitalisation bills up to the insured amount or lifetime limit.
How early should I get a Critical Illness or Medical Insurance coverage?
While we enjoy eating mee mamak and sipping on teh tarik, we should always remember that due to the Malaysian lifestyle, and the fact that over 60% of Malaysians are either overweight or obese, cases of heart attacks among those below 40 years of age are no longer rare. Our recommendation is for you to get covered as soon as you can afford a critical illness or medical card plan.
Generally, premiums (payments made to insurance companies) will be lower if you sign up for a Critical Illness or Medical Card before 30 years of age, making it the ideal phase to get covered.
However, depending on the insurance provider’s policy, expect to go through a medical check-up at any of the insurer’s panel clinics before the approval of your insurance plan.
Do you have questions about heart attacks to get off your chest? Drop us a line in the comments section down below and we will get back to you as soon as we can.