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Cardiac arrest is a heartbeat away

Sandra Wekesa @PeopleDailyKE

A few years back, heart diseases were considered conditions that only affected the West. The reality is that they are now far too common in developing countries.

The death of Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery brought this reality closer. The autopsy report showed that the CS suffered a heart attack. This is not an isolated case as at least three to four people in Kenya are diagnosed with heart diseases on a daily basis, according to data from the Karen Hospital.

Some heart conditions are hard to treat because those suffering from them may not have any symptoms until it is too late. Charles Mugo Mureithi, 52, a heart disease survivor, discovered he was sick when he collapsed at work. “I felt as if I was suffocating because I had never been sick before, so to me this felt strange,” said Mureithi.

Coronary heart disease occurs when the blood vessels that provide blood and oxygen for the heart muscle become narrow and hard. Mureithi had to undergo a Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG).

“I was told it was going to take around eight hours, thereafter I could stay in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for some days until I was stable,” he said. CABG is a heart surgery where a healthy artery or vein is attached to a blocked coronary artery. It allows the grafted artery to bypass the blocked artery and bring fresh blood to the heart.

Late Interior CS Joseph Nkaiserry. Photo/File

Doctors are now advising that regular check-ups can help tackle heart conditions early. “ It does not matter whether you are healthy or not. It is important to undergoing check-ups once in a while,” said Dr Betty Gikonyo, CEO of The Karen Hospital.

A change in lifestyle and diet have been blamed for a rise in heart diseases as well as inappropriate treatment of sore throats, urinary tract infections and tuberculosis. “Heart attacks are not only happening in the West, they are happening here as well.

That is why we need to adhere to regular check-ups,” said Dr Gikonyo. Dr Daniel Nduiga explains that heart attacks occur when blood vessels supplying the wall of the heart is severely compromised and only allow a small volume of blood to pass through it, thereby limiting the amount of oxygen entering the lungs.

“When oxygen cannot reach the heart and, therefore, the heart becomes damaged,” he said. Sudden cardiac arrest is unexpected death caused by the loss of heart functions. It is different from heart attack although it’s often mistaken to be the same thing.

Cardiac arrest death results when the heart suddenly stops working as a result of abnormal or irregular heart rhythms. Heart attack may cause cardiac arrest. Death occurs within minutes.

The most life-threatening is arrhythmia ventricular fibrillation, which is a disorganised firing of impulses from the ventricular. To help heart disease patients, National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) in collaboration with A&K Global Health, an international health management organisation, has launched a cardiac programme that is going to help reduce the cost of treating heart conditions and reduce the waiting period for patients awaiting surgery.

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