Philippine Heart Association (PHA) president Dr. Orlando Bugarin reminds Filipinos to not ignore other serious illnesses even during this Covid-19 pandemic.
In an interview with him and his wife Dr. Maricar Bugarin on Daily Tribune’s Pairfect show, Dr. Orly said heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the country followed by pulmonary disease and stroke.
“Heart disease has always been a pandemic, even before Covid-19 actually. It is still the leading cause of morbidity and mortality rate based on data from the Department of Health. With Covid, the mortality rate went even higher. We really need to put attention to this,” the PHA chief said.
One contributing factor is hesitation among patients who fear visiting hospitals because they might get tagged as a suspected Covid case.
“The Covid symptoms are very similar to heart disease: shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, weakness and fatigue. With Covid infection, patients with heart disease are more vunerable. Once they contract the virus, sila ang nagkakaron ng worst outcome. Patients with Covid on top of heart disease have the highest mortality rate,” Dr. Orly said.
When it comes to pediatric patients, Dr. Maricar said the mortality and comorbidity rates are not as alarming as those of adults.
She said, “But they can still get infected because this is just like the flu. We’ve had cases before that had non-Covid presentations but turned out to be positive cases.”
Dr. Maricar added that they have also seen a rise in depression and anxiety among kids and teenagers. She said, “This is related to news of Covid deaths. Sometimes they experience it with their own family members. One of the problems that they also consult is back pain, lagi kasi silang nakaupo. Actually, it’s difficult because of online class, too, but that’s what we can do for now to continue their learning.”
Because of the lockdown, Dr. Orly and Dr. Maricar’s consultations with their patients continue online.
Dr. Orly said, “We are doing online consultation but it is really difficult to treat, give advice or send prescriptions because you don’t see the patient. It’s really challenging. Now we try to have face-to-face consultations, of course with safety protocols, kasi iba pa rin yung nakakaharap mo sila to physically check. In terms of medicines, we are happy with the technology of the pharmaceutical companies and drugstores. They deliver medicine for patients who are afraid to go out or those who really don’t have access.”
He advises Filipinos to keep lifestyle modifications at home or in the community at a healthy rate. Dr. Orly said, “Try to prevent cardiovascular diseases by simply doing exercise and observing a healthy lifestyle. Malaki na yung magawawa natin for our families. We don’t have to go through that burden. At the same time, we can limit our chance of contracting the virus. With a good heart and immune system, our chances are much better.”
Dr. Orly added that the PHA is currently disseminating guidelines for its colleagues in the field of medicine in relation to the vaccination program.
He said, “Right now there are a number of people who can’t get vaccinated because of high blood pressure. We want to give information or knowledge that it is not any form of contraindication. The goal is to vaccinate everyone because we really want to counter this pandemic.”