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High incidence of heart disease due to late detection

Left to Right: Flanked by Professor Debra Isaac and her husband, Dr John Wayne Walima are: Drs. Thashana Teekah,Angelina Dhani, Thashana Teekah and Arnelle Sparman.

A Canadian cardiologist on Friday said there appeared to be a high incidence of reported heart diseases here, largely due to late detection of cardiac problems.

Dr. Debra Isaac of the University of Calgary’s LIBIN Cardiovascular Institute told reporters that the prevalence of heart diseases was linked to genetics among Indo-Guyanese and non-communicable diseases among  Afro-Guyanese.

“I see a lot of heart disease here. Particularly the heart disease I see is heart disease I don’t see at home (Canada) because it’s being caught earlier,” she said. The LIBIN Institute plans to work with Guyanese authorities in recognizing heart problems early in life. “Right now, we are seeing things that have developed to a point where the patients are very sick.

Among the heart complaints that appear prevalent here are rheumatic valvular disease, congenital heart disease among children, blockage of arteries and defective valves. She noted that people in their 30s were suffering from heart complaints that would have in the past afflicted persons in their 60s and 70s.

Dr. Isaac explained that Indo-Guyanese’ affliction with heart diseases was associated more with genetics for actual blockage of arteries but in the African population their link appeared to be more associated with hypertension and diabetes. “They all have the same level of disease but there are different reasons for it,” she said. The Canadian professor urged Indo-Guyanese to be very careful about their cholesterol and exercise.

Isaac, who has visited Guyana eight times since 2012, plans to apply for a grant to assist Guyana in early identification and management of heart problems. A full-time Echocardiography technologist, Echo probes and an Echo machines are to be provided to hospitals here.

Isaac earlier raised her concern about the high number of heart patients in her report at the graduation of four Guyanese doctors in Echocardiography (Cardiac Ultrasound). The programme is being run by the LIBIN Cardiovascular Institute, the Ministry of Health and the Institute of Health Science Education of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC). “Let me tell you, this is the best place to teach because the amount of heart disease here is unbelievable and I see more heart abnormalities here in a period of a week than I would see in a couple of months at home and obviously different than what we see but some of the more uncommon things at home are very common here,” she said.

Noting that the World Health Organisation reports that one-third of Guyana’s mortality was due to cardiovascular diseases, Interventional Cardiologist and Acting Head of the Department of Internal Medicine at the GPHC, Dr Mahendra Carpen emphasised that the training programme was very important nationally.

“Being able to take this programme and the graduates utilizing their knowledge to specifically target cardiovascular disease can have a significant impact on reducing mortality and even morbidity in this population,” said Carpen.

The doctors who graduated from the Guyana Echocardiography Education Programme were Angelina Dhani, Arnelle Sparman, Thashana Teekah and Sarah V. Lalman.