What ails young hearts?

National 3 minutes, 41 seconds


WHEN doctors told Dk Hjh Mas Joliwane Pg Hj Tejudin that she was suffering from Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia (IST), she was only 31 years old.

The heart disease diagnosis came as a shock to the senior education officer, who was known to lead a fairly healthy lifestyle. She was active in sports, listing badminton and hiking among her many interests. Above all, she was still young and full of life.

“I couldn’t fathom why I was having heart disease... I thought it was for old people or those who don’t exercise. I felt like I was going from hero to zero,” she said.

IST was causing her heart rate to beat unusually fast at over 100 beats per minute and rapidly increase with minimal exertion. A short walk often left her feeling tired, dizzy and breathless, forcing her to lie down for long periods on end.

“I started noticing the symptoms when I was approaching my mid-20s, but it gradually worsened after I gave birth to my first child years later,” she recalled.

Dr Sofian Dato Paduka Dr Hj Johar, a local senior consultant cardiologist, said there were a lot of young cardiac patients in the country who were mostly suffering from heart attacks or angina due to blockages of the heart. “It is true that heart disease is more common in older people, but we do get quite a lot of cases of heart disease occurring among the young,” he said.

About 7,000 people are estimated to be afflicted with some form of heart disease in Brunei. Last year, 364 people including 19 people under the age of 35 died from heart disease. It remains the second leading cause of death behind cancer.

There are numerous possible reasons behind a diagnosis of heart disorder, but he explained that a sedentary lifestyle was to blame for many health problems today. Even the young ones and middle-aged people can develop heart disease, especially now that obesity or being overweight, lack of exercise and eating unhealthy diet are becoming more common at a younger age.

“Basically, it’s multi-factorial. A lot of it revolves around lifestyle,” he said, adding that Southeast Asians have also been shown to have a higher chance of developing heart disease.

For young people, smoking has been cited as a big risk factor. To prevent health problems in the long run, Dr Sofian urged called for the smokers to cut back on cigarette use and eventually stop.

He also advised them to exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet. “The usual guideline states that you should be exercising for at least 30 minutes, five times a week. Do more if you can,” he said.

He also called on young people to see a doctor immediately if they display warning signs of heart disease including feeling discomfort in the chest that can radiate to the back, jaw or arm. They may also feel it at the top of their abdomen.

The doctor clarified that having been diagnosed to be suffering from a heart problem should not mean bidding goodbye to your work and start living a lethargic life. “If you catch it early, you can still lead a normal life with some restrictions. Please don’t assume that having a heart disease means you have to stop doing work or what you enjoy,” he said.

Following the IST diagnosis, Dk Hjh Mas Joliwane struggled to restrict her daily activities. She was used to working hard and exercising vigorously out of habit. However, her condition meant that she could no longer be highly active without putting her life at risk.

She underwent an ablation procedure to burn off a large portion of abnormal heart tissue and remained on medication to control her heartbeat.

It is unclear what exactly caused her to develop IST, but she suspected her daily consumption of energy drinks and caffeine tablets over the years may have played a contributing factor. However, this link has yet to be confirmed by doctors.

Although the heart condition changed her life significantly, Dk Hjh Mas Joliwane eventually learned to stay positive and slowly adapt to a different lifestyle.

“I restrict my mobility and activities. It seriously changed my life... But I began exercising again a year after the ablation procedure. I took up casual horse riding and brisk walking. I don’t worry as much as I used to, because it wasn’t helping,” she said.

The Brunei Times