Study finds 70pc of Hong Kong elderly unaware of heart disease

College calls for greater public education about a condition that greatly increases the chances of strokes, heart failure and death

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 August, 2016, 8:01am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 August, 2016, 8:01am

Up to 70 per cent of elderly people in Hong Kong are unaware of a common heart condition that may affect a fifth of the aged in the city.

The findings of a study commissioned by the Hong Kong College of Cardiology into abnormal heart rhythm, however, also found that 47 per cent of the elderly do not think it necessary to have their heart rate monitored regularly.

The college urged the government to step up public education and develop mobile apps to help keep arrhythmia in check.

The study of 810 people aged 18 or above was carried out in the city from June 14 to 17 to determine the extent of public awareness of the disease.

Arrhythmia, in general, refers to any form of abnormal heart rate or rhythm, of which atrial fibrillation is the most common.

Although not immediately life threatening, it makes a stroke five times more likely, heart failure three times more prone, and doubles the risk of death.

It is estimated 1 per cent of the Hong Kong population have suffered from the condition.

In the case of an irregular heartbeat, blood clots may form and cause strokes if they are in the brain. Over time, an uncontrolled heartbeat may damage the organ and lead to its total failure.

According to official figures, heart disease is the third leading cause of death in Hong Kong. Last year, it claimed an average of 16.8 people each day.

The study showed only 30 per cent of those aged 65 or above had heard of atrial fibrillation compared to 38 per cent of those under 65.

Despite the seemingly low level of awareness, Dr Chan Ngai-yin, honorary treasurer at the college, said he was pleased with the findings.

“Although some two-thirds of the elderly had not heard of the disease, it was already a good improvement when compared to an earlier Chinese University study,” he said on Sunday.

Chan was referring to a related study by the university released in January last year which found that only 7.7 per cent of 1,581 elderly people knew of the disease.

But he agreed there was no room for complacency.

In the college study, only 40 per cent of elderly respondents said they are willing to use a device to monitor their heart rhythm. For those under 65, it stands at 49 per cent.

The most common reason for this reluctance, cited by 63 per cent of all respondents, is that they “do not think it is necessary”. Thirteen per cent said it will be “too troublesome”, and 2.3 per cent express fears of possible “side effects”.