From the emotional to physical (sometimes gruelling!), your heart truly goes through a lot - making it crucial to find a good doctor for it! If you are worried about your genetics, general lifestyle and the added stress of work taking a toll on your otherwise healthy heart, you need to make the time for a change and a specialist consult.
Effortless, down to earth and extremely passionate about what he does, we recently spoke to leading Cardiologist, Dr Ramasami Nandakumar (Dr Kumar for short) on managing our 21st century hearts and the overall stressful lives, we lead.
How long have you been in Singapore and where did you study medicine?
I grew up in Coimbatore, India and left for the UK in 1995 where I trained at various hospitals across Sheffield, Canterbury, Cardiff all the way to Aberdeen, Scotland! I returned to Asia in 2011 and finally moved to Singapore in 2013. Singapore combines the best of east and west in terms of healthcare practice. The emphasis on individual responsibility towards health, along with the government’s facilitation for a full and healthy lifestyle, makes it a dream destination for a doctor - someone who is always trying to get people to get more healthy!
Dr Nandakumar with Dr Beatt and Prof di Mario in Brompton London
What made you decide to be a cardiologist?
In my school years, I remember how a friend’s father passed away suddenly in his early 40’s. I was especially impacted by the loss felt by the entire family and got a first hand experience of how devastating a ‘heart attack’ can truly be! It was of course, much later that I learnt how this could have been easily prevented and treated.
What is the one piece of advice you offer to anyone looking to improve heart health?
To live long is important but even more so is to live ‘heart healthy'. Get off that couch for 30 minutes a day or at least long enough to visit your doctor and learn about your personal risk of heart disease!
What is one of the biggest myths about heart health?
Amongst the several myths about heart disease is the one where you think you are too young to worry about it. Plaques made of fat start building up in the blood vessels from the age of 4! I have had patients as young as 29 years of age being affected by heart disease.
Another common myth of heart attack is that it is a ‘man’s disease’! Heart attack is the number one killer of women in the US and only second to cancer when it comes to Asian women!
Who according to you is most susceptible to a heart disease?
While heart disease can affect anybody, if one leads a stressful life with poor sleep, does no regular exercise, eats fast food most of the time and smokes then they are likely to have some buildup of fat and clogging of arteries. Heart disease becomes even more likely when there is a family of heart disease, or a personal history of high cholesterol, blood pressure or high blood sugar.
At what age is it recommended for a male/female to visit a cardiologist and for what purpose assuming everything seems fine?
Generally in a man it is better to start checking the cholesterol levels by the age of 35, in fact screening should be much earlier if you have the above risk factors or have made poor lifestyle choices. In women 45 years of age is roughly when screening should start. An annual checkup is necessary if you have any risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, known heart disease or stroke.
The full screening including a history, examination, blood tests and scans as recommended. The screening includes a series of tests, all available at our clinic set side by side, so it’s sort of like a circuit run.
So tell us, what does a Cardiologist do in his free time?
I like to spend my free time with my family. We especially love holiday destinations around Singapore such as Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand. I also enjoy reading and ‘The Book Thief’ by Markus Zusakis is a current favourite. I occasionally volunteer my time with TzuChi, a non-profit organisation that works towards providing dedicated medical and social care for those in need in the ASEAN region and globally.
About Dr Kumar
Dr Kumar is currently working as a Senior Interventional Cardiologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Gleneagles Hospital, Mount Alvernia Hospital and Singapore Heart Stroke & Cancer Centre. He is also a Visiting Senior Consultant at Ng Teng Fong Hospital and National University Hospital. You can reach Dr Kumar on +65 82616483 or via his website www.h2h.com.sg