KUALA LUMPUR - Unknown to them, thousands of Malaysians are walking time bombs liable to explode anytime.
These people are unaware they have irregular heartbeats which could lead to blood clots or burst arteries that could result in death or severe physical incapacitation such as paralysis.
Atrial Fibrillation-Strike Out Stroke chairman Prof Dr Sim Kui Hian said 20 per cent out of 49,000 patients with high blood pressure, were discovered to have irregular heartbeats.
"This does not include the diabetic group or other chronic diseases," he said in a press conference yesterday after the launch of the Atrial Fibrillation-Strike Out Stroke in Malaysia book for medical care providers.
Dr Sim said one in five amongst the elderly suffered from irregular heartbeat or artrial fibrillation (AF) and that irregular heartbeat contributed to 15 per cent of all stroke cases.
Deputy Health Director-General (Medical) Datuk Dr S. Jeyaindran said the prevalence of AF in Malaysia was 6.2 per cent and it was much higher than the average 4 per cent in other countries.
He said studies carried out last year in Hospital Kuala Lumpur looked at every fifth person out of 5,000 patients treated for non-communicable diseases.
Dr Jeyaindran said 46 per cent of those aged 30 and above suffered from hypertension according to the National Health and Morbidity Survey.
"This is very high," he said.
He urged doctors to monitor people from high risk groups such as smokers and those suffering from hypertension or diabetes.
He said patients could be treated with blood thinning medication if they have irregular heartbeat and this would help reduce their risk of a stroke.
Ultimately, Dr Jeyaindran urged people to adopt lifestyle changes such as reducing their salt and sugar intake.
Malaysian Society of Neurology president Prof Dr Hamidon Basri said once a person suffers a stroke, their condition would deteriorate at 5 per cent every year.
He also said people were wrong to think they would be okay after overcoming mini strokes.
Prof Dr Hamidon added mini strokes were an indication that a bigger one (stroke) was on its way and patients must be continuously monitored because of this.
In his speech, Health Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said the Health Ministry's publication, Health Facts 2012, reported that cardiovascular disease was the leading cause of mortality in hospitals, accounting for 25.64 per cent of all deaths in 2011.