KUALA LUMPUR - Heart disease is the number one killer among Malaysian women and is two and a half times as common than dying from all cancers combined, warned the National Heart Association of Malaysia.
Its president Datuk Dr Azhari Rosman dispelled the common perception that only older men were prone to heart diseases and strokes.
"Women must maintain a high index of suspicion," he said here yesterday.
"Cancer does not take as many lives as cardiovascular diseases. Women also tend to dismiss pain more easily than men and generally have a higher pain threshold."
Dr Azhari said the latest 2011 National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS IV) had revealed some alarming statistics, including the fact that Malaysian women had the highest body mass index (BMI) in the South-East Asian region.
"Obesity is the harbinger of many conditions," he said. "The NHMS IV study reports that out of 17,000 women surveyed, 29.4 per cent were overweight while 15 per cent were obese."
Dr Azhari, a consultant cardiologist at the National Heart Institute, said that Malaysian women also had one of the highest prevalence of hypertension in South-East Asia, even more than men.
He said women also formed a 60 per cent majority of Malaysians who had elevated total cholesterol levels, another factor that contributed to heart disease.
Dr Azhari said that data also showed that most Malaysians were admitted to the hospital for Acute Coronary Syndrome around the age of 59 years.
"This is seven years below the average in other countries which is around 66 years.
"We have also treated a 19-year-old for heart disease and done a heart bypass on a 21-year-old," he revealed.
Dr Azhari stressed that creating awareness among the public was critical as heart disease was "completely preventable" if detected early.
To this end, he said the Women's Heart Health Organisation (WH2O) was created to educate the public and healthcare providers that women were susceptible to heart diseases and strokes too.
In line with National Heart Day on Sept 29, NHAM, in collaboration with the Malaysian Heart Foundation, has organised a "Walk A Mile" activity at Taman Tasik Titiwangsa on Sept 30.
They will also have other physical activities and health screenings.
For details on other activities planned in the next few weeks, visit www.malaysianheart.org.