Health x Wellness

In conversation with Dr. Kenneth Guo, Cardiologist and Physician

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We speak with Dr. Kenneth Guo, Cardiologist & Physician about heart disease, risk factors and tips on prevention.

In 2014, nearly 1 out of 3 deaths in Singapore were due to cardiovascular disease. 29.9 percent of all deaths were due to either heart attack or stroke.

Coronary heart disease is caused by the narrowing and subsequent blockage of the artery or arteries supplying blood to the heart. This narrowing process takes place over many years. It is caused by deposits of cholesterol on the blood vessel walls (called “plaques”) and results in the thickening of the lining of the heart arteries.

Active Age (AA): What is Heart disease?

Dr. Kenneth Goh (KG): The heart, in essence, is a pump. It has a network of blood supply to provide oxygen and nutrients to power the pump; Muscles, being the workhorse of the pump; Valves, to ensure that blood flows in a single direction, and minimize backflow and an electrical system to coordinate the action of the chambers to maintain synchrony and match the heart rate to the desired activity.

A disease that affects any of the above, constitutes heart disease. The heart disease that most people hear and worry about about is coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease happens when the arteries that supply blood to the heart becomes hardened and narrowed.

AA: Can you share about some of the risk factors, from a lifestyle point-of-view?

KG: The following are examples of habits that we would want to change and take positive steps to improve our health and reduce heart disease:

Excessive salt intake: This contributes to hypertension, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. We require about a teaspoon of salt each day, and this requirement is easily met with the seasoning added to our food. The key is to avoid complementing our food with additional salt, sauce or seasoning.

Buffets and overeating: We all know that going to buffets is a national past time and that we tend to overeat in that kind of environment. It takes a good 10-15 minutes before the signal from our stomach to tell us that we are full, to reach our brain. By this time, it would have been already too late. Keeping to our daily caloric requirements can help prevent obesity, high cholesterol, triglycerides and diabetes. These are all major risk factors for coronary artery disease.

Lack of exercise: Many of us find it difficult to squeeze in time in our daily busy schedule. The morning is typically spent preparing and sending the kids to school,before rushing to work, sitting through meeting after meetings, and watching work pile up. We end late, and if the MRT breaks down, our energy levels are probably near zero when we reach home.

A gradual build-up of low impact exercise, to a frequency of 5 times a week, at 60% of our maximum predicted heart rate, 30 minutes each time, has been shown to reduce blood pressure, and our risk of diabetes. This can be done as a family activity after dinner, such as walking.

Lack of sleep: This contributes to hypertension, weight gain and stress. This happens because when we do not get enough sleep, our body goes into an emergency mode.

Smoking: This is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke and cancer.

AA: From a prevention perspective, what are the top three things we can do to reduce the risk of heart disease?

KG: Lifestyle and dietary modification remains the cornerstone of heart disease prevention.

The top three things anyone can do to help include keeping a healthy and well balanced diet, committing and doing regular exercise with plenty of rest in between and where applicable, to quit smoking.

AA: What are the symptoms and what should I look out for?  

KG: The typical symptoms of a heart attack include but are not limited to:

  • Chest tightness: This is usually central or left sided and may radiate to the jaw and left armpit
  • Palpitations
  • Excessive sweating
  • Shortness of breath at rest or on exertion

Typical symptoms of heart failure include but are not limited to:

  • Shortness of breath, decreased exercise capacity
  • Unable to lie flat, or having to wake up in the middle of the night to catch a breath
  • Swelling of the legs

Heart rhythm problems may be present with the following:

  • Palpitations
  • Dizziness or fainting episodes

AA: From a management perspective, what are some of the options available?

KG: Besides lifestyle and dietary modification, I would suggest regular visits to your doctor or cardiologist if you have a family history of heart problems or have any of the major risk factors for heart disease.

Early identification and control of major risk factors go a long way in preventing heart disease from developing.

The major risk factors for heart disease include hypertension, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, diabetes, physical inactivity, obesity and smoking.

AA: Where can I go to get more information about heart disease?

KG: The American Heart Association at also has a fairly comprehensive website on the various heart conditions with tips on how to achieve healthy living.

Mount Elizabeth Hospitals is holding a half-day “Knowing is half the battle” health Seminar on heart disease and colorectal cancer.

Date: 18 June
Time: 1.30 – 4.30pm
Venue: Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, Level 1, 38 Irrawaddy Road, Singapore 329563
Fees: $5 with one high tea break and a goodie bag

Dr Kenneth Guo, Cardiologist & Physician
“How Do I Know If I Have Heart Disease?”
This talk will explore the warning signs of heart disease, common investigations and treatment options to restore our health.

Dr Charles Tsang, Senior Colorectal Specialist
“Why Your Colon Health Counts?”
Find out more from our specialist on the causes of colorectal cancer, prevention tips, importance of early screening and its treatment options.

More details and tickets can be purchased at the registration website. Exclusively for Active Age readers, Mount Elizabeth Hospitals has shared a promotion code to waive the S$5 fee. To activate this discount, use promotion code “payzero4mte”.  



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