Heart Disease on the Rise in Papua New Guinea

by Serah Aupong – EM TV News, Port Moresby

According to the Pacific International Hospital (PIH) which has the country’s only cardiac operation theatre, so far most of the patients that have undergone heart surgeries there have been less than 50 years old.

This was revealed today at the Pacific International Hospital while commemorating World Heart Day.

Heart diseases are part of the increasing number of lifestyle diseases in PNG and while it is traditionally associated with people over the age of 50, in PNG, the PIH has been seeing patients who are much younger.

Dr OP Sharmar, Chief Cardiothoracic & Vascular Surgeon at the PIH says “the increase of heart disease in comparatively young age group is due to smoking, unhealthy lifestyle, lack of exercise, uncontrolled blood pressure and diabetes”.

37-year old Clive Pole is a patient who recently underwent a bypass sugery at the PIH after he had a heart attack. Checks found that one of his arteries was completely blocked while another artery was 9 percent blocked.

Clive said he thought something was wrong with his lungs when he started experiencing shortness of breath, had difficulty walking for short distances and was unable to lift heavy objects. Checks at Port Moreby General showed that his lungs were clear. Then on 6 June this year, he had a heart attack.

“I was rushed to POM general again,” he said, and this time the doctors confirmed he had heart issues and needed surgery.

Until recently, heart treatment and surgery was only available overseas. Medical and associated cost for accessing treatment overseas can well exceed K100,000.

Early this year, the PIH opened the only Cardiac Operation Theatre and catheterisation laboratory to treat heart patients in the country. In Clive’s case it cost him K70,000 for treatment that involved diagnosis and surgery.

For Clive this was an option he is glad he had.

“The major factor is cost, but the other significant reason is that post operation if having surgery here would mean I have access to the doctor here, it will be a little difficult doing that with a doctor that is overseas,” Clive said.

He is also happy that having the operation here meant he had his family around him who gave him the moral support he needed.

Clive works with PNG Ports Corporation and is grateful that his employer provides medical cover that assisted with his medical bills.

A lifestyle that has a high risk of developing heart diseases is one where there is a lot of smoking – even second hand smoking, a diet that is high in cholesterol, salt and sugar, and a lifestyle that does not have much exercise.

To commemorate World Heart Day day, PIH is offering a healthy heart check for K100 only from 29 September to 15 October.

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