By Musfirah Hasan
Cardiovascular diseases are ranked first place as the cause of death globally. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), an estimated 17.5 million people died from cardiovascular diseases in 2012, representing 31% of all global deaths. In addition, an estimated 7.4 million were due to coronary heart disease and 6.7 million were due to stroke.
Also synonym as heart disease, it is caused by disorders of the heart and blood vessels, and includes coronary heart disease (heart attacks), cerebrovascular disease (stroke), raised blood pressure (hypertension), peripheral artery disease, rheumatic heart disease, congenital heart disease and heart failure.
The report from WHO also stated that in 2014, more than two million Malaysians were in the high risk of getting heart disease. The situation is worrisome as the number will keep increasing if the awareness of practising healthy lifestyle is decreasing.
Feeling aware and responsible, the Heart Foundation of Malaysia (YJM) together with National Heart Institute (IJN) organised a cycling tour across four countries last August to spread awareness of the importance of healthy lifestyle to reduce the risk of getting heart disease.
Dubbed ‘My Heart My Life’, the cyclists are from the IJN Cardiac Cycle (IJNCC) made up of clinical staff and non-clinical staff of IJN. More interesting, the convoy also visited several former patients who were sponsored by YJM and NuSkin along the road tour.
As an intern at Bernama News Channel (BNC) during that time, I was assigned to follow the convoy and produce a special report for the event. Together with two cameramen and a photographer, we followed the team that cycled more than 1,000 kilometres with several pit stops along the route including Temerloh, Kuantan, Mersing, Johor Bahru, Muar and Bagan Lalang.
At every pit stop, IJN Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) team was in charge to give free basic health screening as well as health talk to the local residents. One of the cyclists, Dr. Jayakanthan who is also a Cardiology Fellow, said that it is important to promote healthy lifestyle to the public especially to those who are 40 years old and above.
Most of the pit stops are located at villages that are far from the city. Many of them are unaware about the importance of healthy lifestyle and what causes heart disease. I interviewed some villagers to find out whether the objective of the tour is fulfilled or not. All of them said that the health talk was so informative and they decided to start practising healthy lifestyle for the sake of their heart.
“Alhamdulillah for the health screening, I got to know my sugar level and cholesterol level. After this I need to control my food intake,” said Mohd Dom, a resident at Pekan Sg Pelek, Bagan Lalang, the last venue visited by IJN team.
In spite of the fact that heart disease always occurs for those who are 40 years old and above, the youth should not ignore the fact that heart disease can also happen to them. Latest report from the National Cardiovascular Database Annual Report stated that Malaysians get heart attacks at younger age than people at other countries.
Quoted from an article in The Star newspaper, the chief editor of the report Prof. Datuk Dr. Wan Azman Wan Ahmad said that Malaysian acute coronary syndrome (ACS) patients are younger compared to those in Western registries.
During the road trip, IJN took an approach to also educate younger generation with basic hygiene activity so that they are aware about the importance of healthy lifestyle from young ages.
On the sixth day, the convoy visited Sekolah Kebangsaan Bandar Pontian, Johor for health talk as well as career talk to motivate the students.
“I want to be a doctor. I am very excited to see doctors from IJN,” said Nur Syahmiera Afiqah, a standard five student. The convoy was given a rousing welcome by the school with a very splendid welcoming performance by the school lion dance team and zapin dance team.
Not to forget during the eight days’ trip, the team also visited the houses of six IJN former patients. It was an unforgettable experience for me because most of them are children. The youngest is an eleven months old baby who had her first operation last March. Two days after she was born, Nur Nazeera Batrisya was diagnosed with three complications in her heart and still in need of a second operation.
Thankfully, all the former patients are getting well, some of them are already free from medication even though they still need to attend for medical check-up regularly. Also remembering a patient who had passed away, the team met the father of the late Ilie Adwa.
“I am very thankful for all efforts given to help my late daughter even though she was in a very critical condition as soon as she was born and Allah’s will, she passed away around a month old.” Fairoz Izni expressed his gratitude to YJM and IJN.
Departed from IJN Kuala Lumpur, the convoy also ended the road trip at the same place. All the cyclists including the IJN Chief Executive Director, Dato’ Seri Dr. Mohd Azhari Yakub, cycled from Bagan Lalang, Selangor, to the city on the last day. A closing ceremony was held at IJN attended by the staff including the Chairman, Datuk Seri Dr. Aishah Ong, to celebrate their achievement.
A sentimental moment for me as an intern to be assigned by the chief editor for an important event that required me to continuously give an update about the journey every single day. I gained a lot of knowledge not only on cardiovascular disease, but also on how to be a good journalist by meeting the community.
This is the best assignment I have ever had during my internship period and it will always remain in my heart and my life. ***
Two watermarked photos credited to Bernama Images