Can festive overeating trigger a heart attack?

Can festive overeating trigger a heart attack?

KUALA LUMPUR: In Malaysia, festivals equate with indulging in elaborate meals and all kinds of delicacies all day long.

Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations are no different for this is when delicious traditional Malay fare such as rendang, lemang and ketupat are dished out copiously.

Unfortunately, overindulgence of Hari Raya delicacies has often been “stigmatised” as a cause of coronary heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest. Is this information true or otherwise?

Consultant cardiologist (electrophysiology) at Hospital Serdang Dr Abdul Raqib Abd Ghani debunked this stigma as “fundamentally untrue” because a heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest can occur anytime and anywhere.

However, as he pointed out, an uncontrolled diet and eating too much fast food high in salt and fat, as well overeating during celebrations, can cause the blood glucose and blood pressure levels to spike, which can lead to a heart attack in people who suffer from chronic heart disease.

Heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest are two distinct heart conditions, with the former occurring when a blocked artery prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching a section of the heart. The latter occurs suddenly and is triggered by an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).

Dr Abdul Raqib said even though heart disease is common in Malaysia, a lack of awareness and understanding of the condition is cited as one of the reasons for the growing statistics in the country.

“The most important thing is to identify the level of our health on a regular basis. We should also advise our parents, siblings and relatives to carry out health screenings if they have not yet done so and observe a healthy lifestyle. In the case of our elderly parents, we must ensure that they are taking their medications regularly in accordance with the prescriptions given by the treating doctors,” he said.

He also said that currently there are no official numbers on the prevalence of sudden cardiac arrest in Malaysia as it is difficult to ascertain whether patients die from a heart rhythm disturbance or a complication of their pre-existing heart disease, especially in the outpatient setting.

According to data from the Department of Statistics Malaysia, 15 percent of the 109,164 medically certified deaths that occurred in 2019 were caused by ischaemic heart diseases, which remained the principal cause of death.

“Heart failure, another important risk factor for sudden cardiac death, is also an important cause of hospitalisation accounting for about six to 10 percent of all acute medical admissions and an important cause of hospital readmissions in Malaysia,” explained Dr Abdul Raqib.-BERNAMA