We speak to Dr Eric Silvio Chong, senior consultant cardiologist in private practice, about matters of your heart.
What does a heart doctor do?
We are a combination of surgeon, radiologist, internist and emergency room (ER) physician.
We perform operations like coronary angioplasty, ablation and device implantations. We do echo cardiograms and read coronary CT scans like radiologists.
We also manage conditions such as hypertension, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, kidney disease in heart patients.
We often perform resuscitation and apply direct current shock to collapsed heart patients like ER doctors do.
Your patients are generally...
Men and smokers with strong family history of heart disease or stroke. About a third of them have hypertension and diabetes.
More than half suffer from cholesterol disorders. As for the type of occupation, I see drivers frequently. This is because of their sedentary work style. I encourage them to go for annual health screening.
What are the conditions that can affect the heart?
There are many conditions and diseases that have a direct impact on the heart.
- Diabetes When complications arise, the added stress can directly affect the heart.
- Cholesterol There are both good and bad cholesterol. The bad ones put your heart at risk.
- High blood pressure If left unchecked, it can lead to heart attack, stroke, heart or kidney failure.
- Congestive heart failure The heart cannot pump enough blood. There is no cure, and the condition is improved only with medication.
What is blood pressure and how does it relate to the heart?
It is the strength of blood pushing against the walls of the blood vessels as the heart pumps. If this pressure rises and stays high for a long time, it can damage the blood vessels, and organs like the kidneys, and heart.
I should make an appointment to see you or a cardiac specialist, when I have symptoms like ...
Tightness or pain in the chest, blood pressure that is not consistent throughout the day, persistent headaches, breathlessness, dizziness, a light-headed feeling, or palpitations.
How do doctors help control the risk factors like hypertension?
I usually tell my patients to change their lifestyle. In cases where change alone is not enough, and where the patient has a family history of hypertension, I would need to prescribe medication such as Norvasc ODT.
This pill dissolves under the tongue and works well for patients who have difficulty swallowing, or kidney patients with a restriction to water intake.
Do you have an anecdote about an unforgettable patient, or a medical situation?
He is a personal friend, whose father died of heart attack at a young age. He himself was overweight.
He led a stressful and unhealthy lifestyle. He first consulted me for chest pain at 36 and went through surgery to get a coronary bypass.
But because he did not change his lifestyle much, his heart failure symptoms returned four years later.
I worked with a team of doctors and we performed a seven-hour marathon surgery to save his life.
His lifestyle improved dramatically after he moved to the Thai countryside and adopted a super healthy and relaxed lifestyle. Almost a miracle, his heart function has now returned to normal.