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Community-based rehabilitation helps prevent cardiovascular disease

17 Sep 2013

(From left) Mr Tay, Kheng Yong, Yu Heng and Asst Prof Chang

Patients showed an overall improvement in exercise tolerance and stamina at the end of the study
A decrease in body fat and “bad” cholesterol; an improvement in total cholesterol levels, exercise tolerance and stamina – these are some of the benefits of a community-based rehabilitation programme for cardiovascular disease prevention. The key findings by NUS and the Singapore Heart Foundation represented the first such study done in Asia on a community programme aimed at reducing cardiovascular risk.

According to the Singapore Heart Foundation, one out of three deaths in Singapore is due to cardiovascular disease. In fact, it accounted for 30.4 per cent of all deaths in 2011.

Assistant Professor Joanne Yeh Chang of the NUS Department of Pharmacy led the study. She worked with recent NUS Pharmacy graduates Mr Kwan Yu Heng and Mr Ong Kheng Yong, together with Mr Tay Hung Yong of the Singapore Heart Foundation.

“After getting cardiovascular disease, some of the patients feel low-spirited and do not have the drive to carry out rehabilitation. However, when the patients were with other patients at the rehabilitation centre, they encouraged and supported each other. These made the patients continue with their rehabilitation,” explained Asst Prof Chang.

More than 200 local patients with certain cardiac risk factors or underlying cardiac disease were assessed over 12 months at the Singapore Heart Foundation as part of the Heart Wellness Programme. This involved individualised series of exercise programmes, nutritional reviews, smoking cessation programmes as well as psycho-social counselling. The patients had their heart rate, blood pressure, body weight, body fat and exercise tolerance measured.

At the end of the programme, the patients showed positive changes in their health and cardiac risk factors, demonstrating the potential of the programme in slowing disease progression and preventing further complications.

The results can serve as a reference for healthcare professionals and administrators in Singapore to further support and expand similar programmes. The researchers hope that the study will also influence other Asian countries to initiate affordable early cardiovascular disease intervention programmes to promote health awareness.

Next, there are plans to carry out a controlled trial which targets 1,000 patients over five years.